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Columbia chronologies of Asian history and culture

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Columbia Chronologies of Asian History and Culture

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Columbia Chronologies of Asian History and Culture

Edited by John S. Bowman

colu mbia u niver s i t y p r e s s ne w y or k

columbia university press Publishers Since 1893 New York Chichester, West Sussex Copyright 䉷 2000 Columbia University Press All rights reserved Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Columbia chronologies of Asian history and culture / edited by John S. Bowman. p. cm. Includes index. ISBN 0–231–11004–9 (cloth : alk. paper) 1. Asia—History—Chronology.

I. Bowman, John

Stewart, 1931– DS33.C63 2000 950–dc21


A Casebound editions of Columbia University Press books are printed on permanent and durable acid-free paper. Printed in the United States of America c 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1


Consultants and Contributors vii Introduction ix Map of Asia xvii

part one: east asia China Political History Arts, Culture, Thought, and Religion Science-Technology, Economics, and Everyday Life Japan

Political History Arts, Culture, Thought, and Religion Science-Technology, Economics, and Everyday Life

Korea Taiwan Hong Kong Macau (Macao)

3 79 99 118 162 179 193 225 236 244

part two: south asia India

Political History Arts, Culture, Thought, and Religion Science-Technology, Economics, and Everyday Life


251 325 355 370



Bangladesh Bhutan Maldives Nepal Sri Lanka (Ceylon)

379 384 389 393 400

part three: southeast asia Brunei Cambodia Indonesia Laos Malaysia Myanmar (Burma) Philippines Singapore Thailand Vietnam

409 415 436 452 465 476 488 501 506 521

part four: central asia Mongolia Central Asian Republics Tibet

547 566 577

Appendix 1: National/Independence Days Appendix 2: Scientific-Technological Achievements in Asia Appendix 3: Asian History: A Chronological Overview

583 590 603

Index 679

consultants and contributors

consultants Central Asia (Mongolia, Central Asian Republics) Morris Rossabi Professor of History City University of New York

China Robert Hymes Professor of Chinese History Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures Columbia University

Japan Harold Bolitho Professor of Japanese History Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations Harvard University

Korea Edward W. Wagner Professor of Korean History (Emeritus) Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations Harvard University

South Asia Ainslie T. Embree Professor of History (Emeritus) Columbia University


Consultants and Contributors

Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Brunei, Philippines) Barbara Andaya Professor, Asian Studies Program University of Hawai’i at Manoa

Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam) John K. Whitmore Adjunct Associate Professor of History and Research Associate of the Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies University of Michigan

contributing writers John S. Bowman Laos, Vietnam

Michael Golay China

Mary-Ann Gallagher Cambodia, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan

Edward H. Morris Korea, Central Asian Republics, Mongolia

Cristina Parsons Ochagavia Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore

Eva Weber Japan, Thailand

Pamela White Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tibet

indexer Marlene London


Chronologies have long proved their worth—compressing masses of data that occupy many pages in standard texts, simplifying complicated material, pinning down dates that are often ignored or obscured in these same texts. There are certainly many chronologies in many books. They tend to fall into two categories. There are those for specific countries published as adjuncts to specialized histories of those countries. And then there are the big “synoptic” chronologies or timelines of the entire world’s history. Each of these serves its own useful function and special public. Yet none, it can safely be claimed, does what this one attempts—namely, to provide a chronology for all of Asia that is both specific and comprehensive. The history of each country is set forth in a detailed and sequential manner, one that is above all intended to clarify. Each of the countries or major historical/political entities of Asia (as defined: see below) gets its own full treatment. (Several of these countries have never received such an orderly treatment.) Meanwhile, each of the three largest nations—China, India, and Japan—gets separate chronologies for the many achievements in the areas of (1) arts, culture, thought, and religion, and (2) science, technology, economics, and everyday activities. Beyond these elements, what distinguishes this work from the other available chronologies is that their entries are, at best, overly terse, and at worst, meaningful only to the initiated. Each event is simply set down as an isolated event: Individuals are not identified, places are not located, obscure words are not defined, relationships are never made clear. In this chronology, by contrast, such matters are clearly identified. This still leaves a number of ground rules that the user of this work should know of. We discuss each of these in the pages that follow, and we advise any reader/user to consult them so as to understand the true characteristics and boundaries of this work.



ASIA AS DEFINED We must start by declaring that ours is the historian’s, not the geographer’s, Asia. The geographer’s Asia stretches from the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, incorporates what we know as the Middle East, winds around the southern borders of Russia and the Urals, and then sweeps across a great land mass, including many offshore islands. The Asia of this volume includes what the specialists now designate as Central Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and East Asia. It should also be admitted that there are several gray areas, countries that might have been included. The most obvious one, perhaps, is Afghanistan; but because this chronology reflects historians’ views of the past, we decided that Afghanistan belongs more to the Middle East. Meanwhile, there was little debate over leaving the whole of Asiatic Russia—known as Siberia—to Russia’s history. If this seems somewhat arbitrary, it might be said that the traditional Asia of geographers is hardly less so: Why draw the boundary between Turkey and Russia? Why draw the boundary at the Urals? Why draw the line between Indonesia and New Guinea? There remains one potentially controversial boundary we have drawn, and that is the assignment of Tibet to Central Asia. This is not intended to take a side in the ongoing dispute between China and Tibetans; it is merely intended to reflect the anthropological and cultural roots of Tibet and its distinctive history. Likewise, the decision to give Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau their own separate chronologies is not intended to make any political statement: this simply reflects the history of these places. In the future, their chronologies may be absorbed into China’s, but for now they seem to rate their own.

D AT E S Because a chronology by definition depends on dating, let us first explain some of the issues revolving around dates.

The Single Western Calendar First came the decision to assign all dates to the traditional system and sequence employed in the Western world. Many of the countries and regions included here have their traditional calendars—the Hindu calendar, for instance, a traditional Chinese calendar, a Muslim calendar, and so forth. But because this work is clearly aimed at readers and students in the Western world and because its language, English, will mean that it is used by those already familiar with that Western outlook, we considered it totally impractical to adopt those traditional calendars. The whole point is to show relationships immediately by a common standard, which would not work if readers had to jump back and forth among these several calendars.

The b.c./a.d. System This then raised the related question of whether to employ the traditional Western system of b.c./a.d. or to adopt other systems now being used. Increasingly more people are rejecting this system with its specific references to the Christian religion, locating all of history along a se-



quence that a predominantly Western religion has deemed crucial. Alternative systems, however, tend to simply substitute different terminology for those two time frames—no system generally proposed attempts to put all events on one sequence. One exception is that used by geologists and anthropologists, the bp (“before present”) system, but this is used only for truly old and approximate dates. Meanwhile, some of the other systems now being used—such as bce/ce, “before the common era”/“common era”—were considered, and one or two of our consultants did, in fact, indicate their preference for adopting one of these systems. There is also a system that employs—(for b.c.) and Ⳮ (for a.d.); although neutral and even clear, the feeling is that it is not widely recognized. The fact is, though, that none of these systems really avoids dividing dates at the traditional Christian boundary; they simply change the nomenclature. Most history books being written still employ the b.c./a.d. system, so we decided to use it here.

Rounded-off Dates We have mentioned that anthropologists have to deal with broad time frames—they often cannot be expected to know in exactly which century or decade, let alone which year, events occurred. So, too, do most historians of the ancient world; for that matter, most historians of what might be called the world’s “middle ages” also deal with many approximate years. Many texts are thus filled with qualifiers such as “about 50,000 bpe” or “about 1500 b.c.” or “around 1500.” At the outset of this project, we found that almost all our early dates were preceded by c., the traditional abbreviation for circa, itself a Latin word for “about.” Eventually we decided that this was superfluous for all these early dates: we decided that it can be taken for granted that most dates that are rounded off in the b.c. era are just that, rounded-off approximations: 38,000 b.c., 5000 b.c., 1500 b.c., 500 b.c. So, too, are most rounded-off years well into the last few centuries. Not until we get into a country’s recorded history can we be sure of exact years—although even then, this is often uncertain. So it should be understood—and we think this is fair—that the many rounded-off dates up until, say, about a.d. 1900, are just that—rounded off.

Abbreviation of circa At times, however, we use c. when we have entered into the periods where specific dates are being used for surrounding historical events, and putting 1350 or 1480 might be seen as designating a specific year. So c. is employed to indicate that this particular date is just that— approximate and rounded off.

The Question Mark The question mark is used in two situations. When it appears by itself, it is almost always indicating that the year of birth or death of an individual is unknown. The other use is when it follows a year or date. This is intended to indicate that (1) the exact year simply cannot be pinned down and/or (2) not all scholars can agree on this exact year; however, this is a specific year (or approximate period) that seems to be generally accepted, even if disputed by some.



Variants We should also point out the several variants that we hope are at least consistent if not selfexplanatory: c. 1550 ⳱ the event in question occurred close to this year but cannot otherwise be pinned down 1250s ⳱ the events in question occurred during most if not all of this decade 13th century ⳱ the event occurred throughout much if not all of this century Early 13th century ⳱ the event occurred in approximately the first third of this century Mid-13th century ⳱ the event occurred in approximately the middle third of the century Late 13th century ⳱ the event occurred in approximately the final third of the century 13th–14th centuries ⳱ the event occurred during a time frame that bridged these two centuries 13th and 14th centuries ⳱ the event occurred throughout much of both these centuries

Traditional and Legendary Dates There are many dates commonly used in histories of countries that are in fact simply assigned by legend or tradition. Often these apparently specific dates have become important in the “history” of a nation or people, so we felt they must be given. But we have tried in all instances to label such dates as just that—legendary or traditional.

Dates and the World’s Time Zones When days are given (e.g., January 17, 1995) we have tried in all instances to give the date as it was in the country concerned—not necessarily the same day it is known in the West. An example: When North Korean forces crossed the 38th parallel it was about 4:00 a.m. on June 25 in Korea, but only about 3:00 p.m. on June 24 in Washington. We give the date as it fell in Korea. As it happens, almost all the locales included in this volume lie east of the Greenwich time zone, so if there is a difference in a day, it precedes the day in Western Europe or North America. A major exception to this is World War II in the Pacific, where events often occurred at times that were at an earlier hour on the same day in North America: thus Pearl Harbor occurred at 7:55 a.m. on December 7 in Hawaii when it was already 12:55 p.m. in Washington.

Discrepancies with Dates in Other Texts All this said, there remains the problem of differences in dates in even the most respected scholarly sources. (As for more popular works, some are truly a morass of misinformation.) This proved to be one of the most challenging—and exasperating—aspects of compiling these chronologies. Some of these differences are explicitly recognized and debated by the scholars, but most of them simply sit there in the various texts as though there is no disagreement. Where these differences or discrepancies seemed vital, and we were unable to resolve them, we have tried to recognize this with a minimum of words. But ultimately, we could not record every



one of the differences—this would have changed the nature of such a work. We had to settle on a single date. All we can say is that each of our consultants and contributors thought long and hard about these matters and did their best to settle on what appears to be the best one. But we do not deny that there will be many differences with other highly reputable works.

Up-to-date Dates In all matters of history, a single discovery can upset certain accepted dates. In the case of modern Asia, this is less likely with well-recorded events, but it is certainly the case with events in the ancient and earliest periods. In general, most specialists do not rush to change or adopt dates on the basis of one or two isolated finds—they have to fit things into the whole picture. But some discoveries and announcements do seem to be incontrovertible. One such instance was announced in the final stage of this book: the finding that the early dwellers of the Zhoukoudian caves in China apparently did not make or control fires. Most of the published literature does not yet reflect this claim. T R A N S L I T E R AT I O N Another major area of problems, because so many different languages are involved in a work of this kind, is that of transliterating foreign words and names: that is, converting other alphabets and sounds into the roman alphabet that best approximates in English these many unaccustomed sounds.

Different Systems Where there are different systems, we have used the ones recommended by our consultants— which turn out to be the ones most preferred by modern scholars. The best-known instance of these is the change in transliterating Chinese names and words. For many years, the Western world (at least in English) relied on a system named after its two nineteenth-century English proponents, Wade-Giles. Starting in the 1970s, however, English-speaking art scholars began to adopt a new system known as pinyin, and this system was soon adopted by everyone writing about China. Under pinyin, for instance, the province of Kwangtung become Guangdong.

Exceptions to the Rule This does mean that many proper names—of individuals and places—that have long been accepted in the English language, do in fact end up looking somewhat strange or at least unfamiliar. Peiping, China, has become Beijing; Mao Tse-tung has become Mao Zedong; and so on. In general, we go along with this new system. But in a few instances, we have stayed with the traditional forms—Confucius, for instance—and especially when the traditional versions seem to be the only ones still being used in most texts.



Diacriticals The use of diacritical symbols—those marks added to letters to indicate the special phonetic values in various languages—seemed as though it might become an especially trying or complicated issue for this work. In the end, the problem did not materialize, because our consultants accepted that these diacritical marks are not needed in a work such as this—namely, one for nonspecialists and one not designed to be read aloud. Put another way, our consultants went along with a minimalist approach.

Translations/Equivalents We have tried to provide English translations or equivalents for at least the first time a foreign word or term or title is used. If this word does not get used again for a long time, we provide the translation again. But if the word is used in relatively close succession and/or it has passed into widespread usage (samurai, lingam), we do not provide a translation after the first use.

D I S C R E PA N C I E S I N “ FA C T S ” As our contributors began to examine the scholarly and authoritative texts on which they were to base their chronologies, they soon began to find countless discrepancies or differences not only among the many dates they were expected to pin down but also among some of the more general accounts, descriptions, or conclusions about events. Keep in mind that the texts they were consulting were those recommended by the scholarly authorities who served as our consultants. Our contributors did their best to sort out these problems and then to pin the events down to a specific year. And therein lies the problem, because some of these events do not easily lend themselves to one date. These were complex situations that happened in the dim past and our knowledge may be based on questionable sources. Some scholars may accentuate one aspect, some may emphasize another. They can do this in their long paragraphs, even pages, of discussion and analysis—and even then end up straddling the issue. We, conversely, were expected to reduce everything to one year. Inevitably this may have led to some simplification, probably inherent and inevitable in such a chronology with its brief entries, limited space, and blunt statements. Our consultants did their best to prevent us from being simplistic, but we plead guilty to at times having had to simplify. That said, we labored long and hard to end up with the “truest” data. We are aware that some of our information may differ with those in other reputable sources. Allowing for some possible outright misunderstandings or errors that could creep into a work of this size, we think our information is as solid as any now generally available.

C O N S U LT A N T S The role of our academic consultants should be made clear. Each is a recognized authority in the area or nations whose chronologies she or he reviewed. They were consultants in the sense that they brought a sense of balance and proportion, of current and fair interpretations, of



outdated claims or missing material. They approached their particular portion of the chronologies with some assurance that the contributing writers had done their work carefully. Of course the consultants were expected to catch major errors in details (and they caught many). But they cannot be held responsible for every single date and “fact”: they were not asked nor expected (nor paid!) to repeat all the research, to serve as fact checkers.


Separating Arts, Culture, Thought, and Religion and Science-Technology, Economics, and Everyday Activities For the three major countries—China, India and Japan—we provide chronologies that deal with attainments in the arts, thought, religion, and other intellectual and cultural fields, with another set of chronologies for science, technology, economics, and everyday life. There are pros and cons on both sides to this approach, and the decision to do so was not taken without considerable debate among those involved. But it was decided that although specialists in these countries’ histories might find it a bit arbitrary to have such elements separated out, the individuals who might be expected to consult such a work will appreciate this approach. Most users will probably be turning to this work in search of some fairly focused information, and it seemed most helpful to separate out this specialized topics for the three main countries. In any case, it should be relatively easy and quick to move back and forth among the three sections by referring to the dates along the left margin. And finally, the index will quickly guide everyone to any and all detailed data throughout the work.

National/Independence Days This appendix was undertaken with the thought that it would be an easily compiled and simple list of dates. In fact, it turned out to be both more difficult and informative because of the many unexplained dates and discrepancies in other sources. We have tried not only to identify the dates but also to explain their context.

Early Science and Technology in Asia This appendix provides one accessible chronology of an increasingly important topic of history: the early achievements of Asia in the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and related fields. Its stopping at the year 1600 simply reflects what happened in world history: by that time, the Western world was moving ahead and Asia was closing itself off. In the twentieth century, of course, Asian countries joined the great international scientific-technological project; their major contributions and accomplishment are indicated in the chronologies—in the case of China, India, and Japan, the separate chronologies, in the case of other countries, their single chronology.



Asian History: A Chronological Overview This appendix is an overview of the entire history of all of the countries and entities treated, putting their events and achievements into relation with each other country’s and then in line with events and individuals elsewhere in the world.

S U M M AT I O N All explanations aside, we feel that our writers—with the advantage of the academic consultants to guide them away from errors and excesses—have produced the most thorough, most correct, and most accessible chronologies for these many Asian lands. As indicated above, these chronologies, unlike almost all others available, truly explain rather than assume that the user already knows the individuals and places and events. They take little for granted. They identify, locate, define, translate. In their completeness, they become true outlines of these countries’ histories. And by drawing on every possible source—many of them relatively obscure—and tracking down countless discrepancies that litter even the most scholarly texts, our researchers/writers have gone beyond most standard works, actually eliminating numerous pervasive errors. To that extent, we feel that these chronologies represent true and independent contributions to the literature.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS The formal listing of the consultants and contributing writers (pp. vii–viii) does not begin to express the debt and appreciation the editor owes to these individuals, all of whom ended up working far beyond the literal assignments they signed on for. In addition, we would like to thank several individuals who provided special advice or help along the way: Ludwig W. Adamec of the University of Arizona, Dennis Hudson of Smith College, Peter H. Lee of the University of California at Los Angeles, and Clark Neher of Northern Illinois University. We also owe a special debt to numerous libraries, and particularly to the many librarians who helped us in tracking down often hard-to-find texts. Finally, the editor is especially indebted to several individuals who have given beyond the call of duty in seeing this work through the planning, editorial, and production stages: James Warren, the editor at Columbia University Press; Edward Knappman of New England Publishing Associates; Gregory McNamee, the manuscript editor; and most especially, Marlene London of Professional Indexing Services. Although it is customary for the editor to take responsibility for every single error in a work, this would be presumptuous, suggesting that I could know every single “fact” in this book. Rather, what I do take responsibility for are the contents in a broader sense—decisions about what to include or not include, the failure to recognize major gaps or inconsistencies. Specialists in various areas will undoubtedly discover errors here and there; by the same token, specialists above all will know how difficult it is to get unanimity on many of these details. We can say only that all involved in this work have tried very hard to keep mistakes to a minimum.

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Columbia Chronologies of Asian History and Culture

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Pa r t O n e East Asia

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China p ol it ica l h i s t o ry



Until the late 1980s, it was believed that the first hominid (Homo erectus) appears in China about 800,000 b.c.; excavations at the newly discovered site of Longgupo Cave, however, found fossils, dated to between 1.96 and 1.78 million years old, that some experts claim as hominids but other see as prehominid apes. In any case, this appears to be an isolated instance, and the main focus on early hominids in China remains on the fossils found at the Zhoukoudian caves near present-day Beijing. (The fossils are still popularly known as “Peking Man.”) During the next 500,000–600,000 years, this species disperses through much of central and northeastern China. Eventually this hominid species is replaced by the archaic Homo sapiens, which appears in China sometime after 250,000 b.c. By around 50,000 bp, Homo sapiens sapiens replaces previous hominids in China. By 12,000 bp, late Paleolithic people form a half dozen or more distinct cultures in China, and practices suggesting ideas of kinship, the arts, and religion develop. China’s legendary history opens around 3,000 b.c. with the advent of a series of semidivine figures who instruct the nomadic Chinese in the activities of a more sedentary civilization: fishing, hunting, farming, and trading. In China’s traditional history, the Yellow Emperor of c. 2700 b.c., the first of the “Five Premier Emperors,” used force to create a unified state; his successors are said to build on his achievement. The story of these early reigns, however, is strictly legendary, with no archaeological confirmation of any of the individuals or events. But increasingly remains of the third millennium b.c. begin to confirm at least some of the later traditions of an emerging and perhaps already distinctive form of society. B . C .: Hominid remains (dental fragments) in association with primitive stone tools found at Longgupo Cave near the Yangtze River in south-central China signify that hominids entered China


much earlier than long thought. This species has more in common with fossils (Homo ergaster and Homo habilis) found in East Africa and is not the same as the Homo erectus found in China a million years later.


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B . C .: A cranium of a female found near Lantian in central China is the oldest known Homo erectus fossil found in China. 500,000–250,000 B . C .: Hominids of the species Homo erectus inhabit caves at Zhoukoudian, a limestone hill on the edge of China’s north-central plain about thirty miles southwest of present-day Beijing. These creatures have a brain capacity about two-thirds that of modern humans; they walk upright and make basic stone tools; whether they actually hunt animals or just scavenge for food is disputed. Similar hominids are living at numerous sites throughout eastern China during this period but little is known of their way of life except that they make crude stone tools. 250,000–50,000 B . C .: Sometime during this period, archaic Homo sapiens inhabit sites in various parts of China. Most modern scientists believe that fully evolved Homo sapiens came into China from their homeland in Africa; some believe that modern humans in China evolved from the previous Homo erectus living there. 50,000–12,000 B . C .: Truly modern people, Homo sapiens sapiens, begin to emerge and to form distinct cultures in China. They remain nomadic hunter-fisher-gatherers and depend mainly on their stone tools. During this period, these people probably evolve with many of the physical characteristics now associated with the Mongoloid people of Asia. 12,000–6000 B . C .: Scattered agricultural communities develop on the central plain of China. By 6000 b.c. at the latest, people in the Yellow River (Huang Ho) valley are cultivating millet, while people in southern China are probably beginning to cultivate rice. 5000–3000 B . C .: The Yangshao culture flourishes along the middle Yellow River. Settled communities also develop along the southeast coast and on the island of Taiwan. In the settled farming areas below the south bend of the Yellow River, villagers live


on a millet diet with supplements of game and fish. They hunt with bows and arrows, keep dogs and pigs, use hemp for fabrics. By 5000 b.c. wet-rice cultivation is spreading along the lower Yangtze River valley, possibly introduced there from lands to the south. 4000–2000 B . C .: Perhaps overlapping and certainly ultimately succeeding the Yangshao culture, the Lungshan culture develops to the east of the Yangshao settlements. The Lungshan people exchange their goods, and this leads to some accumulation of wealth, which in turn leads to a society that appears to support more social classes, various rituals, and elaborate burials. Their towns are protected by walls of earth, suggesting some kind of conflict. At Erlitou, regarded as the first city in China, remains from about 2000 b.c. suggest an almost feudal society, possibly the basis for the Xia dynasty of Chinese myth and legend. 2852 B . C .: According to the tradition that begins in the Han dynasty, this is the date for the beginning of the legendary Age of Three Sovereigns. 2698–2599 B . C .: Han dynasty tradition claims that Xuanyuan Gongsun, the chieftain of a tribe in present-day central Henan, ascends as the Yellow Emperor, the first of those Confucius later calls the Five Premier Emperors. He is a semilegendary figure, although some historians regard him as having a historical basis. Wherever under heaven there were people who disobeyed him, [the Yellow Emperor] would go after them; but as soon as they were pacified, he would leave them alone. He crossed mountains and opened roads, never stopping anywhere to rest for long. Records of the Historian, by Sima Qian (145–90 b.c.?)

2514–2437 B . C .: Han dynasty tradition claims

that Zhuanxu reigns as second of the Five

Political History

Premier Emperors; he quells a rebellion of the Jiuli tribes to the south and claims dominion south of the Yangtze. 2436–2367 B . C .: Han dynasty tradition claims that Ku reigns, overseeing a period of general quiet and prosperity. 2357–2258 B . C .: Han dynasty tradition claims that Yao’s long reign is marked, toward the end (c. 2300? b.c.), by a legendary Great Flood that inundates vast areas of the Yellow and Yangtze river valleys and causes widespread famine and political disruption. 2255–2208 B . C .: Han tradition claims that


Shun rises by virtue from humble origins to become the last of the Five Premier Emperors. During this era, the outlines of the ancient system of feudal land tenure emerge. Shun also reorganizes the bureaucracy, establishing government departments for agriculture, justice, education, public works, and other areas. Before his death, he appoints his trusted chief minister Yu as his successor. 2208 B . C .: Yu succeeds Shun and is honored as the founder of the Xia, the first dynasty of ancient China. By legend, Yu is a descendant of the Yellow Emperor.



The Xia (c. 2200–1750 b.c.), established by the semilegendary Emperor Yu, is the first of the three ancient dynasties. Shang (c. 1750–1040 b.c.) and Zhou (1040–256 b.c.) follow. Historians are not entirely convinced the Xia dynasty actually exists; in any case, the three dynasties are probably not more than episodic hegemonies, historians suggest, and they likely overlap rather than succeed each other in direct line. The Bronze Age Shang is the first of China’s historic dynasties, with its first capital near present Zhengzhou and a second, later, near Anyang north of the Yellow River. Though its domain encompasses a relatively small area (parts of today’s Henan, Anhui, Shandong, Hebei, and Shanxi provinces), Shang culture becomes widespread in North China and present Sichuan. A written language emerges. Royal palaces are built in the capital towns. Mansions of the wealthy class feature post and beam construction. A complex agricultural society develops. Political structures take root and society stratifies into a peasantry and an aristocracy of landowner-warriors. The first Chinese calendar comes into use. Shang artisans reach an advanced state of development in metalworking, pottery, and other crafts. The third of the ancient dynasties, Zhou, shares a culture similar at its origins to Shang, though it develops in forms that would have been unrecognizable to rulers of the earlier dynasty. The Zhou era is the classical age of Confucius and Laozi (“the old master,” by tradition the founder of Daoism). Written laws and a money economy develop. Iron implements and oxdrawn plows appear. Zhou is a period of general political disorder and turbulence. Zhou society evolves steadily from the feudal form, with its hereditary warrior nobility, toward an independent, centralized state with armies drawn from a landed peasantry, a unification process that reaches its fulfillment in Qin. Traditional Zhou subdivisions are the Spring and Autumn (722–481 b.c.) and Warring States (403–221 b.c.) periods. 2208–c. 2195 B . C .: By tradition, Yu reigns for

a peaceful and prosperous thirteen years. He is succeeded by sixteen kings in a dynasty that survives for nearly five hundred years. 2000 B . C .: Humans are being buried under

the foundations of important buildings on the North China plain—evidence (from modern archeological sources) of human sacrifice, probably of war captives. 1800 B . C .: The Xia dynasty comes to an end


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with the reign of a degenerate king. This will become a feature of Chinese historical presentation: the last ruler of a dynasty is portrayed as corrupt, incompetent, morally bankrupt, or a combination of all three. 1760 B . C .: Tang, the virtuous first of the Shang high kings, comes to the throne; by tradition, here begins the second dynasty of ancient China. “It is asked: Shall an army of five thousand men be raised?” “The T’u country is pasturing on our lands, ten men.” “Will there be rain enough for the millet crop?” Inscriptions on oracle bones, later Shang dynasty (c. 1750–1040 b.c.)

B . C .: Pangeng reigns as Shang king; he foresees the destruction of the Shang capital at Zhengzhou by flood and moves it to a safer site at Anyang. 1122 B . C .: By tradition, the House of Zhou deposes the Shang dynasty. Modern scholars believe the Zhou triumph occurred somewhat later, probably between 1050 and 1025 b.c., when the Zhou spill out of the Wei River valley and overwhelm the Shang. The Zhou establish a new capital at present Xian. 897 B . C .: By tradition, the chieftain Feizu establishes the state of Qin in North China, with its seat on the Wei River near modern Xian. c. 800 B . C .: An estimated two hundred small lordly domains claim some form of autonomy; most of these recognize the Zhou king as feudal overlord.


With the spring days the warmth begins, And the oriole utters its song. The young women take their deep baskets and go along the small paths, looking for the tender [leaves of] mulberry trees. The Book of Poetry, by unknown authors (end of Shang–beginning of Zhou?)

771 B . C .: Nomadic Rong (to the Chinese, bar-

barians) attacks force a weakened House of Zhou to quit its capital near present Xian and move east to Luoyang; this brings the Western Zhou subperiod to a close and inaugurates the Eastern Zhou. From this point, Zhou royal power is nominal and Zhou kings reign as figureheads. 770 B . C .: Qin becomes a full principality, beginning its rise to political prominence in North China. 722–481 B . C .: During this 240-year period, known as Spring and Autumn, as many as 170 small states coexist under nominal Zhou suzerainty. The Zhou kings rule only by default. Through alliances and wars, some states are absorbed by others. 7th century B . C .: Qin begins to gain prominence among the many Zhou states. 688 B . C .: Existence of the county as an administrative unit is first mentioned in Qin. 685–643 B . C .: Duke Huan reigns in Qi, on the eastern edge of the North China plain in present Shandong province. Qi casts coins, regulates the economy, and leads a powerful alliance of smaller states in resisting the expansion of the semibarbarian state of Chu to the south. 677 B . C .: Qin builds a new capital at Yong. 676 B . C .: Qin adopts summer sacrifice and festival of Fu. 659–621 B . C .: Duke Mu reigns in Qin. Through armed conquest, Mu extends Qin boundaries west of the Yellow River. 623 B . C .: Qin wins an important military decision over the Rong “barbarians” of the north and west; the Zhou king recognizes Qin as sovereign over the western Rong.

Confucius said: By nature men are pretty much alike; it is learning and practice that set them apart. The Analects of Confucius, c. 551–479 b.c.

Political History 598 B . C .: County administrative organization

is mentioned in the southern state of Chu. 430 B . C .: Qin repulses attack of the Rong; this is the last recorded Rong challenge to Qin. c. 410 B . C .: As Zhou dominance ebbs, a smaller number of more powerful states emerge. 403–221 B . C .: During this era, known as the Warring States period, seven major rivals jockey for supremacy. The Zhou king is no longer a real factor, as regional lords begin calling themselves kings and refuse to acknowledge the slowly dying dynasty. The rivals are organized along military lines, with important new rituals of warfare, hunting and human sacrifice. Agricultural production is on the increase during this period, partly the result of more widespread irrigation and draining. Population growth and urbanization characterize the period. 400 B . C .: The political unit known as the commandery is mentioned for the first time in the state of Wei. This large administrative unit replaces the feudal fiefs of the Zhou. The initial military purpose of the commandery is to bring frontier areas under state control. Gradually, counties become subordinate to commanderies; by the end of


Zhou, ten or twelve counties will make up a commandery. Rich is the year with much mullet and rice; And we have tall granaries With hundreds and thousands and millions of sheaves. We make wine and sweet spirits And offer them to our ancestors, male and female; Thus to fulfill all the rites And bring down blessings in full. “Rich Year,” Book of Odes, Zhou dynasty (1040–256 b.c.)

361 B . C .: Gongsun Yang (Lord Shang) arrives

in Qin and becomes chief minister. 350 B . C .: Qin moves the capital to near modern Xian. 334 B . C .: Chu conquers Yue. 326 B . C .: Qin adopts the winter festival of La. 315 B . C .: Qin captures twenty-five Rong walled towns. 256 B . C .: Qin destroys Zhou, formally ending the long-decayed Zhou dynasty. 249 B . C .: Chu conquers Confucius’s home state of Lu.

Q I N D Y N A S T Y: 2 2 1 – 2 0 6


Qin subdues the last of the rival Warring States during the latter decades of the third century b.c. and, as of 221 b.c., forcibly unifies China. This brief, powerful dynasty establishes an imperial system that in certain crucial respects will last, through many vicissitudes, until 1911. Qin administrators standardize weights and measures, currency and, above all, the written language. They build highway and irrigation systems, as well as a network of waterways that includes a 1,200-mile-long water transport route from the Yangtze River to Guangzhou (Canton). Joining and strengthening earlier defensive systems, they commence building the Great Wall of China. Ultimately, it will stretch 1,400 miles from southwest Gansu to southern Manchuria. Qin rulers follow the stern militaristic tenets of the Legalist School of Shang Yang and Hanfeizi; Shang’s elaborate system of rewards and punishments regulates Qin society. Law tablets unearthed in the twentieth century suggest Qin laws are harsh, though not unusually so for China at this period. Commoners are able to buy and sell land, and there is a rough equality before the law.


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Qin emphasis is on obedience to the state, even over loyalty to the family. For this and other reasons, successor dynasties tend to view Qin as tyrannical and culturally backward. Qin emerges as the most powerful of the Warring States of the North China Plain. Qin’s advantage is military innovation, such as deployment of infantry in the hill country where war chariots could not operate.

3d century

B . C .:

Qin has the same customs as [the barbarians]. It has the heart of a tiger or a wolf. It knows nothing of traditional mores, proper relationships, and virtuous conduct. A Wei nobleman writing to his king, 266 b.c.

B . C .: Zheng, who will become the first Qin emperor, is born. 250 B . C .: Lu Buwei, a rich merchant, rules as chancellor of Qin. 246 B . C .: Still a child, King Zheng comes to the Qin throne. 238 B . C .: Zheng reaches his majority and begins to exercise power. 237 B . C .: Zheng deposes Lu Buwei as chancellor; Lu takes poison and dies in 235. c. 235 B . C .: The Legalist minister Li Si begins his rise to power. 230 B . C .: The rival state of Han falls to Qin. 228 B . C .: Zhao falls to Qin. 227 B . C .: An envoy from the rival state of Yan fails in an attempt to assassinate Zheng. 225 B . C .: Wei falls to Qin. 223 B . C .: Chu falls to Qin. 222 B . C .: Yan falls to Qin. 221 B . C .: Qi falls to Qin. 221 B . C .: With the defeat of the last of the other Warring States, Qin forcibly unifies China. Zheng takes the title of Qin Shi Huangdi—August Lord of Qin. 221–210 B . C .: The First Emperor, Zheng, divides the empire into thirty-six commanderies, each subdivided into counties, imposing centralized bureaucratic rule. He standardizes the Qin law code for all the empire. Capital punishments for crimes such


as rebellion and treason include prisoners’ being beheaded, boiled in a cauldron, and cut in two at the waist. 220–210 B . C .: Under Meng Tian, Qin forces push the empire’s borders north and northwest into modern Mongolia. 219–210 B . C .: Qin extends the empire’s borders southward into the fertile, well-watered, and semi-tropical region of modern Guangdong and Guangxi provinces. 219 B . C .: The First Emperor, Zheng, sends thousands of families to colonize the Shandong peninsula on the East China coast. c. 219 B . C .: Li Si rises to become chancellor of the left, the highest governmental post in Qin China. 216 B . C .: The principle of private land ownership is generally established throughout the empire. 211 B . C .: Qin sends thirty thousand families into the Ordos Desert to colonize the region. July–August 210 B . C .: Emperor Zheng dies at age forty-nine while on a trip to eastern China, allegedly to seek an elixir of immortality from Daoist magicians, bringing his thirty-seven-year reign to a close. Ancient historians will portray the First Emperor as something of a barbarian, ruthless and crude, and will not be kind to his memory. 210–206 B . C .: Emperor Zheng’s lavish funeral, public works, and military projects deplete imperial resources. Upon his death, the empire begins to break apart. August–September 209 B . C .: Rebellion erupts in the state of Chu and quickly spreads to the rest of the empire. 208 B . C .: Li Si, the First Emperor’s chancellor, is put to death in the central marketplace of the capital. 207 B . C .: The Second Generation Emperor kills himself and is succeeded by a son of his older brother. January 206 B . C .: Rebels advancing from the

Political History

south sack the Qin capital, burn palaces, and put the last Qin ruler to death after a reign of only forty-six days.


202 B . C .: Four years of civil war end with the

establishment of the Han dynasty on the ruins of the Qin empire.

H A N D Y N A S T Y: 2 0 2

B.C. —A.D.


The Early Han emperors extend the bureaucracy. The government operates manufacturing and mining monopolies. Landed estates increase in extent; correspondingly, a part of the peasantry is impoverished. An upper class emerges as the dominant social group. Trade increases. Military initiatives push China’s borders outward. The Han period sees a reasonably open society, although a wide gulf divides rulers and the ruled, rich and poor, landowners and peasants. In Later Han, new figures rise to positions of power and wealth, and great landed families are dominant. Han is strong on ceremony and ritual. Learned men are influential at court. Early Han rulers adopt a modified Confucianism as the ideology in which state officials are to be trained. Scholars label this blend of Qin legalism and the ideas of Confucius, “Imperial Confucianism.” The dynasty follows an imperial cult of ritual observance and develops the notion of humanity as part of nature. The underlying idea is that the emperor’s conduct and his performance of ceremonial must be of a standard to maintain the harmony of Heaven, Earth and humankind— the balance of the cosmic forces of yin and yang. The cult emphasizes, too, the special relationship between the ruler and his ancestors. By around 50 b.c. a period of relative decline encourages the rise of a reformist movement that calls for a return to what reformers regard as a more traditional and purer Confucianism. They see government as responsible for improving life for everyone, not just the elites. They call for the training of state officials in the unalloyed Confucian canon, establish new state cults, and attempt to abolish state monopolies. Dynastic instability and a gradual weakening of state power ends in the collapse of the Early Han dynasty in the second decade of the first century a.d. After a brief period of usurper rule and civil war, a member of the Han imperial family restores the dynasty. Buddhism makes its appearance toward the midpoint of the first century. Mass population shifts mark the last two centuries of Han primacy, with a large migratory flow from north and west to the fertile river valleys of the south. The dynasty collapses in a.d. 220.

Early Han (202 b.c.–a.d. 8) c. 209 B . C .: Liu Bang, who rises from peasant

origins in central China, establishes the Han dynasty after leading an uprising against Qin in his native state. He will reign as the Emperor Gaodi. 8th month, 207 B . C .: Forces under Liu Bang penetrate the Qin heartland. 10th month, 206 B . C .: Liu extends his control to the Qin imperial capital. 12th month, 206 B . C .: Liu Bang’s ally-turnedrival Xiang Yu, the king of Chu, enters the Qin capital and ransacks the palaces there.

Liu, now styled king of Han, opens a campaign against his former supporter and defeats three of his subkings, but fails to subdue Xiang Yu himself. 203 B . C .: Liu recovers his strength. He and Xiang Yu agree to divide China between them. 4th month, 204 B . C .: Xiang Yu besieges Liu Bang’s forces and defeats them at the Han capital of Xiangyang on the Yellow River.


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The common people succeeded in putting behind them the sufferings of the age of the Warring States, and ruler and subject alike sought rest in surcease of action. Punishments were seldom meted out and evildoers grew rare, while the people applied themselves to the tasks of farming, and food and clothing became abundant. On the First Decades of the Han Dynasty, by historian Sima Qian (145–90 b.c.?)

202 B . C .: Liu Bang breaks the agreement, at-

tacks Xiang Yu, and defeats him at Kai-xian in modern Anhui province. Xiang kills himself. Liu becomes the undisputed ruler of China and accepts the title of emperor, reigning as Gaodi until his death in 195 b.c. 202 B . C .: Gaodi declares a general amnesty and implements measures to restore law and order throughout his dominions. He shifts the capital from Luoyang to Chang’an near modern Xian. Over the next seven years he will consolidate Han power in the ten smaller kingdoms that emerge from the breakup of the Qin empire, gradually replacing their rulers with members of his family. 195–188 B . C .: Gaodi’s son succeeds him as emperor, reigning as Huidi. 190 B . C .: After a five-year effort, Han military engineers complete the construction of a defensive line around the capital, Chang’an. The thirteen square miles of walls enclose the city on all four sides. Nearly fifty feet wide at the base, they are pierced by tall watchtowers. 188–180 B . C .: Empress Lu, Gaodi’s widow, reigns. After her death, Han forces crush her family’s bid for power. 180–157 B . C .: Wendi reigns, the first Han emperor to rule for longer than a decade. 177 B . C .: Han mobilizes to contest the invasion of the Xiongnu from their steppe empire in the Ordos region (modern Mongolia) beyond China’s northern frontier. Diplomats arrange a temporary peace.

c. 170 B . C .: Two leading thinkers, Chao Cuo

and Jia Yi, develop their theories of agriculture as the basis of China’s economy and society. Jia Yi argues explicitly that agriculture is the nation’s foundation. Chao Cuo supports farming at the expense of commerce. He also urges the Han leaders to limit the power of the subordinate kingdoms and check the incursions of the Xiongnu in the north. 168 B . C .: To ease the burden on the peasantry, government reduces the tax on produce, including grain, from one-fifteenth to one-thirtieth part. 166 B . C .: Xiongnu raiders approach the capital, Chang’an, before they are driven off. 157–141 B . C .: Wendi’s son succeeds him, reigning as Jingdi. The two reigns, noteworthy for the growth of the central government, stabilize the dynasty. By 143 b.c. the empire, a highly organized bureaucratic state, comprises forty commanderies and twenty-five small kingdoms, half of them ruled by Jingdi’s sons. At the end of Jingdi’s reign, 90 percent of China’s population works in the countryside, most as farmers. Males from the ages of twenty-three to fiftysix are liable for compulsory state service, either in the army (two years) or in a labor gang (one year). 154 B . C .: The king of Wu (eastern China) rebels; six other kings ally with him. After several months of fighting, imperial forces subdue the rebel army and crush the insurgency. 141–87 B . C .: Wudi rules, one of the longest reigns of Chinese history. Wudi, whose title means “the martial emperor,” inherits an empire on a solid financial footing. By the year of his accession, Han has consolidated and expanded its central authority and established an effective tax-collecting system. 136 B . C .: Government establishes official posts for academicians who specialize in the explication of five works now to be treated as basic texts for the education of state officials: the Book of Changes, the Book of

Political History

Songs, the Book of Documents, the Rites, and the Spring and Autumn Annals. Thus the Confucian canon becomes the basis for training government officials. 135–119 B . C .: Han military forces respond to a succession of threats from the Xiongnu on the northwest frontier in what is today Mongolia. The invaders are driven from the borders after key victories in 121 and 119 b.c. 128 B . C .: A Han effort to establish China’s authority in the Korean peninsula fails and is aborted. But Han China manages to set up a commandery in Manchuria. 124–118 B . C .: Gongsun Hong rises from pigkeeper to rule as chancellor, Han’s highest office. 122 B . C .: Rebellion breaks out in the Han kingdom of Huainan and is quickly crushed. The kingdom is abolished.

Heaven is like an egg, and earth is like the yolk of the egg. Alone it dwells inside. Heaven is great and earth is small. A Theory of the Structure of the Universe, by scholar Zhang Heng (c. a.d. 120)

119 B . C .: The Han drives the Xiongnu north

beyond the Gobi Desert. The costs of wars and rebellions are depleting the Han treasury. To pay for Wudi’s initiatives, the government introduces state monopolies of salt and iron and takes other steps to bring private mining operations under state control and levies new taxes on market transactions, vehicles, and property. 111 B . C .: Han expeditionary forces conquer Guangzhou (Canton) and the provinces of Guangdong and Guangxi in southeast China and add northern Vietnam to the realm; the government establishes commanderies in the modern provinces of Yunnan and Sichuan, extending Chinese power to the southwest. 110 BC: The government creates a board to control transport and creates an important


new office, superintendent of waterways and parks. c. 110 B . C .: The Confucian scholar/statesman Dong Zhongshu (c. 175–105 b.c.) urges the emperor to curb the growth of landed estates and the concentration of great wealth. 109 B . C .: The government carries out major dike repairs to prevent flooding in the Yellow River valley. 108 B . C .: Han China resumes its effort to subdue Korea, launching two military expeditions that bring much of the peninsula under Chinese control; it sets up four commanderies in conquered Korea. The empire, divided into eighty-four commanderies and eighteen kingdoms, reaches its greatest extent of the entire Han period. 102 B . C .: A Chinese general returns from Ferghana in Central Asia with a few of the region’s famous great horses. They soon become a symbol of status in imperial China. 100 B . C .: Han China tightens its hold on the provinces and the chronically turbulent frontiers. North China is virtually free of raids from beyond the borders. The government establishes control over the territory of modern Guangxi province in the south. 91–90 B . C .: With no formally nominated successor to the throne of Wudi, Han experiences a dynastic crisis. 88 B . C .: An assassination attempt on the aging Wudi fails. March 27–29, 87 B . C .: On March 27, an eightyear-old son of Wudi and one of his consorts is nominated as heir to the throne and will rule as Zhaodi. When Wudi dies on March 29 Zhaodi succeeds as Han emperor. He reigns until 74 b.c.; real power lies in the hands of the powerful general Huo Guang. 86 B . C .: As many as thirty thousand rebels rise against Han rule in the new commanderies of the southwest. A second uprising ends in 82 b.c. with Han forces putting more than fifty thousand rebels to death. 82 B . C .: Adopting a policy of retrenchment, China begins a withdrawal from Korea. September 10, 74 B . C .: Xuandi ascends as em-


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peror at age eighteen, succeeding Zhaodi, who dies at twenty-two. During Xuandi’s reign, which lasts until 49 b.c., reformist ideas, advanced in reaction to the exhaustion of China’s resources through modernist expansion, gain ascendancy. 68 B . C .: Huo Guang, a “gray eminence” of the emperor, dies and his relatives are stripped of influence and titles; the oncepowerful Huo family lapses into decline. c. 60 B . C .: Government sets up the office of protector-general of the western regions to regulate colonial activities on the western frontier. 59–56 B . C .: The reformist Xiao Wangzhi rises to become imperial chancellor. He opposes excessive state interference in the economy and in individual lives and calls for a scaling back of China’s involvement in Central Asia. 51 B . C .: Chinese diplomats conclude a peace with the Xiongnu empire on the northern frontier. 49–33 B . C .: Yuandi reigns. In his and his successor’s reign, the reformists take charge. Economy in government, a loosening of controls over the daily lives of the Chinese, and military retrenchment characterize the concluding decades of the century. Reformists issue a series of eighteen amnesties during the period 48–7 b.c. and generally ease the administration of justice. They fail, however, in their efforts to restrict land holdings as a means of arresting the decline of the peasantry and tenantry. 47–44 B . C .: The government implements a series of measures to reduce spending on the imperial household, part of a general retrenchment. 46 B . C .: Chinese administration withdraws from the island of Hainan. Omens favor a move of the capital from Chang’an to Luoyang, but the notion is abandoned for the time being. 34 B . C .: Government decrees simplify and shorten judicial procedures. 33–7 B . C .: Chengdi reigns as emperor. He is

said to be frivolous and selfish, a lover of low music and cockfights. He dies without producing a male heir. The half-nephew who succeeds him will rule as Aidi. c. 30 B . C .: Treasury officials implement a new round of economy measures for the imperial household, including cuts in the budget for the upkeep of palace buildings, the abolition of the office of music, and reductions in the arms and equipment of the palace guard. May, 7 B . C .: Aidi ascends to the Han throne. 7 B . C .: Shi Dan rises to become marshal of state. To narrow the gap between rich and poor, he calls for restrictions on the ownership of land and slaves. 5 B . C .: According to written sources, the Han civil service has a strength of 120,285 officials. August 15, 1 B . C .: Aidi dies without an heir. The Wang family moves prominently to fill the power vacuum. The day after the emperor’s death, Wang Mang continues his rise to power as the relative of a dowager empress and becomes marshal of state. October 17, 1 B . C .: Pingdi, nine years old, ascends the throne of Han. His health is fragile throughout his brief rule and real authority lies in the hands of the regent Wang Mang. Wang looks to the early Zhou for his model or social order and justice. He attempts to redistribute land, abolish slavery, and encourage respect for the teachings of the classics. A . D . 1–2: China retains a precarious foothold in Korea with two commanderies still intact. September/October, A . D . 2: The world’s earliest preserved census puts the population of the Han empire at 57,671,400. The heaviest population concentrations—some 44 million of the total—are in the Yellow and Huai river valleys in the north. Chengdu in modern Sichuan is China’s largest city, with a population of 282,147. The capitals, Chang’an and Luoyang, have 246,200 and 195,504 inhabitants respectively. (All figures are believed to be high, especially when compared to later Chinese censuses.)

Political History 3: Wang Mang’s government carries out a reform of the schools. February 3, A . D . 6: Pingdi dies. He is the last direct descendant of Yuandi; a succession crisis ensues. Wang Mang chooses an infant, Liu Yang, as heir apparent. Wang insinuates that the boy will lose the mandate; he thus will be the last emperor of the Early Han dynasty. May, A . D . 6: Wang Mang declares himself acting emperor. Fabricating a genealogy, this scion of the lesser gentry will claim descent from the legendary Yellow Lord, a Han divinity. Chinese historians will regard him as a usurper. October/December A . D . 7: Wang Mang’s forces quell an uprising triggered by a provincial official who charges Wang with the murder of Pingdi. A . D . 8–9: Wang Mang consolidates his power. He invents a series of omens that suggest the time for a dynastic change has arrived and he should become emperor. January 10, A . D . 9: Wang Mang declares the Han dynasty at an end and proclaims himself emperor. He will rule until a.d. 23. A . D . 9: Wang Mang orders a reorganization of the bureaucracy. He also bans the private buying and selling of slaves. A . D . 9–11: The Xiongnu launch new raids on northern frontier. Wang Mang mobilizes a large army to confront the invaders; the show of force prevents a full-scale outbreak. 11: Heavy flooding causes great loss of life. Resulting famine destabilizes the Wang Mang regime and leads to widespread peasant unrest. 12: Political opposition forces Wang Mang to rescind measures barring the buying and selling of slaves. 14: Wang Mang’s forces put down an uprising in modern Yunnan in southwest China. 18: A peasant army forms under a woman leader known as Mother Lu, and civil war breaks out in Shandong in northern China. Wang Mang mobilizes imperial forces to meet the threat. A.D.


Winter 22: The insurgent Red Eyebrows (the

peasant soldiers are so called because they paint their foreheads red to distinguish themselves from government troops) defeat Wang Mang’s army in Shandong. 22: The Red Eyebrows advance south toward the rich region of Nanyang in present Hunan. Rebellious forces there rise up to join the Red Eyebrows in the war against Wang Mang. October–November, 22: Imperial forces check the rebels temporarily. January–February, 23: Insurgent offensive resumes with a victory over Wang Mang’s imperial army. July, 23: Rebels inflict a decisive defeat on Wang Mang’s army at Kunyang. October 4, 23: Insurgents occupy the imperial capital of Chang’an and sack it. Two days later, they capture Wang Mang and behead him. 23–25: The insurgent Liu Xiu, head of a Han restoration faction, raises an independent army and enlists the peasant Red Eyebrows as allies. August 25: Han restoration forces enter Chang’an. Liu Xiu, thirty years old, proclaims himself Son of Heaven and ascends the throne as first emperor of the Later Han.

Later Han (a.d. 25–220) August 5, 25–May 29, 57: The first Later Han

emperor, Liu Xiu, reigns as Guangwu. November 27, 25: Guangwu enters Luoyang

and makes it his capital. March, 26: Red Eyebrow insurgents evacuate

the former Han capital, Chang’an, looting palaces and tombs and partially burning the city. October, 26–January, 27: Red Eyebrows reoccupy Chang’an briefly, then set out to try to break through the mountain barrier to the North China Plain. March 15, 27: Imperial troops cut off the Red Eyebrow army and force its surrender.


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26–30: Han campaigns subdue the Shandong

peninsula. Guangwu moves to consolidate his power, but his hold is tenuous for several years. “In present times,” one of his generals is heard to say, “it is not only the sovereign who selects his subjects. The subjects select the sovereign.” 29: Imperial forces subdue the lower Han River valley of east-central China. 30: Outmigration from North China leads Emperor Guangwu to abolish thirty counties in the north and shrink the government bureaucracy there. 33–44: Intermittent Xiongnu raids force the withdrawal of Chinese farming communities from northern frontier regions. 34: After a long, difficult campaign, the empire pacifies northwest China. April–May, 35: Han forces move against the last imperial rival, Gongsun Shu, on the Yangtze. December 24, 36: Han army reaches Gongsun Shu’s capital, Chengdu. Gongsun is mortally wounded in the fighting and the city surrenders the next day. April 1, 37: Emperor Guangwu abolishes all but three of the twenty or so subordinate kingdoms. He revives them gradually, installing his sons and other near-relatives as kings. To a degree, this process stalls the concentration of imperial power. March, 40: Aboriginal inhabitants of the Red River Valley in modern Vietnam rebel against China. Pressures of Chinese settlement in the region trigger the outbreak. The uprising is part of a pattern of uprisings—at least fifty-three between a.d. 1 and 200—on Han’s southern frontier, where Chinese are migrating and intermingling with aboriginal peoples. January–May, 43: Chinese expeditionary force crushes the Red River rebellion. 48: A violent uprising shakes northwestern Hunan and is bloodily suppressed after a campaign of several months. 57: Emperor Mingdi ascends the Han throne, succeeding Guangwu. He rules until his

death in a.d. 75, a reign generally regarded as harsh and oppressive. 73: China forms an alliance with the southern Xiongnu against the rival northern federation of Xiongnu. September 5, 75: Zhangdi ascends the throne, succeeding his father, Mingdi. April 9, 88: Hedi becomes emperor. He is underage, and Dou Xian, a leading general and a member of the powerful Dou family, will be regent. 89: Han forces and their southern Xiongnu allies carry out a successful campaign against the northern Xiongnu. Southern Xiongnu settle permanently in northern China, driving many Chinese to the south. 92: Emperor Hedi’s allies accuse Dou Xian of plotting to kill him; Dou commits suicide in prison and a number of his confederates are executed. Among the killed is Ban Gu, the historian of Han, who is implicated through his friendship with the Dou family. 92–102: Ban Chao, brother of the historian Ban Gu, is protector-general of the Western Regions covering the Silk Road to Persia and the Eastern Roman Empire. He reestablishes China’s control over the insurgent west and leads an army westward to the edge of the Caspian Sea, 3,800 miles from Luoyang. He returns to China with information about Rome, the great empire of the West. 93: Tensions flare with the Xiongnu in the north. Frequent armed clashes mark Chinese-Xiongnu relations for the next century. 106: For reasons of economy the government orders a reduction of imperial palace expenses, including banquets, ballets, music, and even fodder for the palace horses. The first decades of the second century a.d. see a gradual but marked growth in power and influence of the consorts’ families and the eunuchs. February 13–September 21, 106: Shangdi, a three-month-old child, is emperor; his death touches off a brief dynastic crisis. September 23, 106: Andi ascends the throne. He will rule until 125 and will be regarded

Political History

as the least capable of all the emperors of the Han dynasty. 108 and 111: Tibetan raiders advance down the Wei River valley to the approaches of the Great Plain. These raids spur the migration of Chinese farmers southward into Sichuan and Yunnan. 125–144: Shundi reigns as emperor. 133: A severe earthquake rocks Luoyang. Some see this as an omen critical of the regime for the favoritism shown relatives, court cliques, and eunuchs. 135: Eunuchs are granted the right to adopt sons. They thus may have families that can inherit their wealth and power, which grow apace as the century advances. 137: The government puts down rebellion in Jinan in northeast China. 140: A census documents the vast changes floods, drought, famine, and war have brought about in China’s population distribution since the census of a.d. 2. China’s recorded population has fallen by more than 9 million over those 138 years to 48 million. By the middle of the second century, southward migration brings the north-south population closer to balance, though the north still dominates. Xiongnu and Tibetan raids have forced 6.5 million Chinese to quit the northwest—a loss of some 70 percent of the population recorded in the census of a.d. 2. 144–145: Chongdi reigns as emperor. 144–145: Rebellions break out in southeastern China; one in 145 ends with the deaths of nearly four thousand insurgents. March 6, 145–July 26, 146: Zhidi reigns briefly as emperor and dies under murky circumstances. One account claims that he is murdered for calling one of his leading officials a bully. August 1, 146: Huandi is emperor. He will reign until 168. c. 150: The imperial harem numbers six thousand women. They arrive as virgins age thirteen to twenty and are selected for their beauty, bearing, and manners. c. 150: China loses its grip on the Western


Regions. Political instability disrupts trade along the Silk Road. 156: With difficulty, government forces crush a rebellion in Shandong. 156–157: Savants take an earthquake in Luoyang, a solar eclipse, and a plague of locusts as signs that heaven is displeased with the emperor and that reforms in economic policy are due. 166: A senior government official renews criticism of the dynasty for favoritism and extravagance. Interpretations of astronomical phenomena lay blame for the misconduct on the emperor and the palace eunuchs. 167: Government aids victims of a tidal wave along the east coast, distributing two thousand cash, a copper coin, for each victim age seven or older. January 25, 168: Emperor Huandi dies, touching off a major political crisis. The cause is a building resentment over the power of the eunuchs. The regent Dou Wu and a group of high bureaucratic allies plot to kill the leading eunuchs. October 24, 168: Eunuchs get wind of Dou Wu’s scheme to break their power and forestall his move. The plot is aborted; Dou Wu kills himself; and the eunuchs are secure for another generation. 168–189: Lingdi reigns as emperor. The prestige of the throne ebbs during his rule, and the power of the corrupt eunuchs is nearly absolute in the palace. Many bad omens are reported during his rule: a horse gives birth to a human child; a virgin delivers a twoheaded, four-armed baby; there are earthquakes, hailstorms, and caterpillar infestations. Though there are conflicts between court favorites and the bureaucrats and widespread unrest in the provinces, this is the last period of orderly government during the Han dynasty. 169–184: The era of the Great Proscription grows out of the conflict between the eunuchs and high bureaucrats. The eunuchs win the struggle and put more than one hun-


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dred of their rivals to death. Their families go under a perpetual ban of government service; the ban covers not only near relations but those who share even a great-greatgrandfather with someone on the proscribed list. 178: Appointments to high office, heretofore on perceived merit except in rare instances, now go to the highest cash bidder. The top positions cost as much as 20 million cash. 184–185: The so-called Yellow Turbans rebellion rages to the south, east, and northeast of Luoyang. Several hundred thousand peasants rise up when omens and visions persuade them that the Han dynasty should be brought to an end. There is a specifically Daoist content to the rebels’ ideology; rebellions such as this one are among religious Daoism’s early expressions. The eunuchdominated imperial court, too weak to react, turns to provincial warlords for protection. By February 185 the outbreak is quelled. May–September, 189: Shaodi reigns as emperor. May, 189: The dissident warlord Dong Zhuo advances to within eighty miles of Luoyang. September 25, 189: Troops massacre the two thousand palace eunuchs in Luoyang. Dong Zhuo’s army enters the capital and loots it. September 28, 189: Dong Zhuo deposes Shaodi and installs his half-brother, Xiandi, on the throne. Han will soon split into as many as eight warring factions and the new emperor’s reign will be nominal. 189–220: Xiandi is the Han emperor. May 1, 190: Dong Zhuo’s army burns Luoyang to the ground and shifts the imperial court to the old capital of Chang’an. Destroyed in Luoyang are the Han archives and the imperial library.

Spring 191: Under pressure from the warlords

Yuan Shao and Cao Cao, Dong Zhuo retreats to Chang’an where he joins the nominal emperor, who keeps up the Han court but is without influence. Spring 192: Dong Zhuo is killed. August, 196: The emperor returns to a partially rebuilt Luoyang. Warlords and rebels contest control of the provinces. The empire breaks up into several parts—as many as eight distinct power centers at one point. 200: Cao Cao, with Emperor Xiandi now in his keeping, defeats his rival Yuan Shao. Over the next eight years, he establishes control over most of northeast China. 208: Cao Cao advances southward. His forces encounter the allied armies of Sun Quan and Liu Bei and are defeated at Red Cliff on the Yangtze. Sun Quan remains in control of the lower Yangtze valley. Liu Bei advances upriver to seize the rich region of Shu (modern Sichuan). 208–220: Cao Cao extends his control of north and northwest China. He resettles farmers on former Yellow Turban lands, thus helping to bring about an economic upturn after the devastation of the civil wars. The Han court remains his captive. 216: Cao Cao gives himself the title of king of Wei. May 15, 220: Cao Cao dies. Chinese historians speculate that had he lived, his next step would have been to set himself up as emperor. December 11, 220: Xiandi, the Han emperor, abdicates, bringing the four-hundred-year dynasty to a close. China divides into three warring kingdoms, Cao’s Wei, Liu Bei’s Shu Han, and Sun Quan’s Wu, that vie for supremacy over the next century.

THE THREE KINGDOMS AND SIX DYNASTIES: 220–589 Turmoil marks this three and-a-half century era, a period of political and social fragmentation that corresponds roughly to the decline and fall of the Roman Empire in the west. It is the longest period of disunion in Chinese history.

Political History


The main trend of the close of the Later Han dynasty is the shift of power from the imperial court to large provincial landowners with their own courts and private armies. Three rival kingdoms, Wei, Wu, and Shu Han, temporarily survive the wreck of Later Han. The successor to Wei, the Jin, briefly reunifies the country. But it is racked by internal disorders, and the incursion of nomadic non-Chinese drives the Jin from North China. Waves of Tibetan tribes overrun northwestern China. The proto-Mongol Xianbei set up states in Gansu in the west and Hebei in the east. These intruders intermarry, adapt to Chinese ways, and rule in collaboration with the established aristocratic families. Toward the end of the fourth century, the Toba Turks found the Northern Wei dynasty with their capital at Luoyang. They provide a measure of stability and security and are able to hold North China together for a century and a half. Northern Wei institutions build, too, a framework for the eventual restoration of the empire. But for most of this nearly three-hundred-year period, China is politically divided south and north. The warlord ascendancy of Later Han forms the structure of Chinese society until the Sui/Tang reunification around 600. Chinese society and politics are strongly aristocratic in flavor, both north and south. Great families claim high offices and high status, and pass them on down the generations. The regional dynasties of the South, one succeeding another, are at peace most of the time. Agriculture and trade flourish there. Southern rulers from their capital at Jiankang (modern Nanjing) regard themselves as more sophisticated than the barbarian northerners. From their centers on the lower Yangtze, these dynastic states push southward and colonize the aboriginal peoples in their path.

Three Kingdoms (220–265) 220: With the passing of Cao Cao, his son

claims the Mandate of Heaven and founds a new dynasty, the Wei, in North China. But rivals to the south challenge this claim. Liu Bei, a member of the Han imperial family, claims from his power base of Shu (Sichuan) that he is the legitimate Han successor and declares himself emperor. Zhuge Liang, who comes down through China’s history as the exemplar of the loyal and heroic government minister, becomes Liu Bei’s chief administrator. On the Yangtze, Sun Quan, once allied with Liu Bei, appoints himself emperor of the third of the three kingdoms, Wu. The rival kingdoms make constant war on each other. 234: Zhuge Liang is killed campaigning with Shu Han forces in the Wei River valley. The death of this brilliant leader effectively ends the Shu Han threat to the other two kingdoms. 235–264: The Wu Kingdom contributes to the spread of Chinese culture in the south.

The immortals nourish their bodies with drugs and prolong their lives with the application of occult science, so that internal illness shall not arise and external ailment shall not enter. Although they enjoy everlasting existence and do not die, their old bodies do not change. If one knows the way to immortality, it is not to be considered so difficult. On Immortality from Alchemy, by the religious Daoist He Gong (255–333?)

265: The Shu Han kingdom collapses. In

North China, the Jin dynasty succeeds the Wei. 280: The Wu kingdom crumbles. 280–304: Jin rules a temporarily reunified empire for around a quarter century. Then non-Chinese invaders drive the Jin from North China. Early 4th century: Waves of nomadic peoples sweep into China from the north and northwest. They establish a series of brief dynasties; warfare is constant in the north for most of the century.


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312: Luoyang, the ancient capital of eastern

China, falls to nomadic invaders.

Six Dynasties/Sixteen Kingdoms (317–589) 4th century: Ceaseless warfare claims tens of

thousands of lives in the north and touches off a mass migration to the safer south. In the south, the Chinese push into the wilderness hinterlands from the lower Yangtze. 317–420: Span of the Eastern Jin dynasty. 386: The Northern Wei dynasty is established. Its Toba Turk rulers bring order out of chaos in northern China. They ally with powerful Chinese families with roots in the Han upper class. The great families find protection and security in the arrangement; the alien rulers tap the governing skills and general knowledge of the Chinese. 398: Northern Wei rulers order a Chinesestyle capital to be built at their old Toba settlement in northern Shanxi. It is rectangular and walled on all four sides, with the traditional ancestral hall and great earth mound. 420–479: The Liu Song dynasty rules in southern China. 479–502: The Southern Qi dynasty succeeds the Liu Song. 471–499: Xiao reigns as emperor of the Northern Wei. With his Chinese allies, Xiao adopts the Chinese military organization and land-allotment procedure known as the equal-field system, which form the basis for the eventual revival of the imperial state. 495: Xiao moves the capital from northern Shanxi to the Yellow River valley. 502–557: The Liang dynasty rules in southern China. 524: The “Revolt of the Garrisons,” a reaction of the steppe peoples to forced sinicization, spills onto the populous central plain of North China. The country districts are ravaged. Luoyang is attacked and more than a thousand Chinese court functionaries are

massacred. Within a decade, the revolt will lead to the division of the Wei state. 534–535: Rebellion and internal division break the Northern Wei dynasty into two parts. The more economically productive, stable, densely settled and “Chinese” half, the Eastern Wei, establishes its capital at Ye in Henan. The Western Wei, still immersed in the horse-and-warrior culture of the steppes, is based on the old imperial capital at Chang’an. 543: Eastern Wei forces defeat a Western Wei army, inflicting losses of more than sixty thousand men. 546–550: To rebuild its military, once largely composed of troops drawn from the border peoples, Western Wei rulers attempt to recruit Chinese soldiers. How may one reject [the Buddha] and refuse to learn from him? The records and teachings of the Five Classics do not contain everything. Even if the Buddha is not mentioned in them, what occasion is there for suspicion? The Disposition of Error, a defense of the Buddha’s teachings said to be by Mou Zi (probably 6th century)

548: Trouble breaks out in the placid South:

The Hou Jing rebellion ravages the Yangtze provinces. Hou Jing occupies Jiankang, the Liang capital. 550: The Northern Qi state evolves out of the Eastern Wei. 550–560: Nomadic Turkish tribes assert loose control over a vast empire of Inner Asia stretching from Manchuria in the east to the Persian frontier in the west. They prosper on plunder from raids into China and on the silk routes linking China and the west. 552: Western Wei forces conquer the region of modern Sichuan on the upper Yangtze, thwarting the southern Liang kingdom’s effort to establish a substate there. 552: A Liang general kills Hou Jing and crushes his rebellion. Within a few years, he will take power as the first emperor of Chen.

Political History 554: A Western Wei army attacks the tempo-

rary Liang capital at Jiangling on the central Yangtze, slaughters the city’s elite, and establishes a puppet state in the region. 557–589: Along the lower Yangtze, the Chen dynasty succeeds the Liang. 557: The Northern Zhou, another offshoot of the Northern Wei dynasty, establishes a successor state to the Western Wei. Northern Zhou rulers, descendants of the military elites of the Revolt of the Garrisons of 524, restore traditional Chinese forms of government. The two former Wei states, Northern Zhou and Northern Qi, engage in a bitter rivalry for ascendancy. 557–560: Mingdi reigns as emperor of the Northern Zhou. Wudi succeeds him. 575: Northern Zhou and Chen forces agree to combine for an attack on the Northern


Qi. As a reward, the Chen rulers are to be given control of the rich region between the Huai and Yangtze rivers. 577: Northern Zhou conquers Northern Qi and establishes control of all of North China, including the rich, crowded plain from the Great Wall to the Huai River valley. The Zhou then turn on their erstwhile allies of Chen, destroy the Chen forces, and tighten their hold on the provinces of the central Yangtze and Sichuan to the west. 581: A scion of the part-nomad Yang family (descendants of the Six Garrisons rebels), whose home base is the region between the ancient capitals of Luoyang and Chang’an overturns the Northern Zhou and asserts his claim to rule North China. Yang Jian will ascend the throne as the first emperor of the Sui dynasty.

S U I D Y N A S T Y: 5 8 9 – 6 1 8 The Sui dynasty reestablishes China’s unity. From his power base in North China, the founding emperor completes the restoration with the conquest of territory south of the Yangtze. The first Sui emperor produces a new legal code, reforms local government, unifies the bureaucracy, reorganizes the military and revives the state’s finances, laying the foundations for a centralized state after three centuries of regionalism. He expands China’s borders and constructs a canal system that will form the basis of Tang dynasty prosperity. The dynasty ends abruptly, however. The second emperor reaches too far in an attempt to conquer Korea. The failed effort leads to rebellion and his loss of the Mandate. 581: Yang Jian and his allies topple the North-

ern Zhou dynasty and assert control over North China. Born in 541 in a Buddhist temple and raised by a nun, he is a strong, authoritarian, and successful ruler. Although a devout Buddhist in his private beliefs, Yang Jian is impatient and anti-intellectual, a man of action rather than reflection. 2d month, 581: Yang Jian takes the title of emperor, holds a dawn audience, declares an amnesty, and proclaims the dynasty of Sui. The first Sui emperor rules as Wendi. Late summer, 581: Wendi and his henchmen murder the last of the rival Northern Zhou princes, for a total of fifty-nine executions.

When one of his Confucian advisors asks him to halt the executions, he explodes: “You bookworm. You are not fit to discuss this matter!” 582: Wendi orders a vast new capital, five miles by six, built on a site south and east of ancient Chang’an. To inaugurate his reform of the bureaucracy, Wendi orders the nomination of “the worthy and the good” for government offices. He proclaims a set of ordinances that allow for a periodic distribution of land to the peasantry as well as to nobles and others of high rank—a Northern Wei innovation the Sui extends. In the seventh month of this year, Sui also adopts new civil


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statutes governing bureaucratic procedures, land use, taxation, and other administrative matters. Eastern Turks carry out large-scale raids into modern Gansu and Shanxi from their Mongolian encampments. 583: Emperor Wendi turns his attention to local government reform, abolishing all of the more than five hundred commanderies in North China. He will abolish the southern commanderies after reunification in 589. These and later measures streamline local government, reduce the number of local officials and bring the remaining ones under central government control. 3d month, 583: The Sui government moves into the partially built new capital. 587: To bring new people into government, Wendi instructs all prefectures to send three men to Chang’an annually for possible civil service appointments. After 589, the total will be nine hundred candidates a year. 587: The Sui abolishes the Liang puppet state along the central Yangtze and takes direct control of the region. 588: Emperor Wendi prepares to move on the south. He informs the Chen ruler that he is about to relieve him of his territory. 588: Sui responds to raids across the Liao River from the kingdom of Koguryo (modern Manchuria east of the Liao and the northern part of the Korean peninsula) with a seaborne punitive expedition. Chinese forces are repulsed and withdraw. 589: The Wendi emperor launches his campaign to take southern China. Sui naval forces defeat a Chen fleet on the Yangtze. Land forces advance on the capital, Jiankang, seize it, and capture the Chen ruler and his high officials for removal north to Chang’an. The provinces—the whole of eastern China south of the Yangtze— quickly fall to the Sui. China is whole again for the first time in three hundred years. 589–591: With a view to the smooth restora-

tion of the empire, the Sui impose an easy peace. Some Chen officials retain their posts. Emperor Wendi remits all taxes in former Chen domains for ten years. 595: A civil service examination system is mentioned, possibly for the first time. The Sui refine it two years later; it is now regarded as a forerunner of the Tang and Song imperial selection system that survives until 1905. 595: Sui rulers continue the effort to demilitarize the country after generations of warfare. Wendi orders the confiscation of all weapons in the empire and bans the private manufacture of arms. 11th month, 600: Wendi deposes his eldest son and names a younger, Yang Guang, his heir apparent. Summer 604: Emperor Wendi dies after an illness; he is possibly hastened into the afterlife by his heir. In any event, Yang Guang ascends the throne as Yangdi, the second Sui emperor. By later tradition, Yangdi is licentious, imprudent, and profligate. Yet his reign produced a greatly expanded canal system and extended China’s frontiers. 604–607: Yangdi establishes an eastern capital at Luoyang. The ancient city is rebuilt and repopulated with “several tens of thousands” of rich merchant and trader families. 605: Emperor Yangdi continues his father’s reform efforts by further centralizing control over the military. This gives the dynasty a firm hand on the military in interior China. 605: Khitan invaders penetrate south as far as modern Hebei before they are defeated and driven off by an Eastern Turk force under Chinese command. 606: Sui financial reforms and an improved registration system vastly increase the empire’s taxable population, to 8.9 million households from only 4 million in 589. 607: Tightening his grip on power, Yangdi orders the execution of three of his critics in senior government posts.

Political History

The first full Japanese embassy to reach post-unification China arrives. Yangdi responds by sending an embassy to Japan. This will lead to a vast export of Chinese culture to Japan. 608: Sui forces rout Eastern Turk tribes in their grazing lands around Kokonor along the route to the Jade Gate and annex a large chunk of their territory to the empire. 610: Emperor Yangdi imposes a special war tax in preparation for a move on the kingdom of Koguryo. 612: The Sui assemble an army of a million soldiers near modern Beijing for the invasion of Koguryo. Chinese forces cross the Liao but are checked and forced to withdraw with heavy losses. Early 613: A series of peasant rebellions breaks out in modern Shandong. A rebel army marches on Luoyang, the eastern capital, and besieges it. Early summer 613: Emperor Yangdi launches a second offensive into Koguryo. Word of outbreaks at home reaches him; he detaches forces to lift the Luoyang siege and quell other disturbances, but the offensive sputters to a halt.


614: Emperor Yangdi makes a third effort to

subdue Koguryo. Sui armies again cross the Liao and this time advance to the outskirts of P’yongyang, the capital. When the Koguryo king offers to submit, Chinese forces withdraw. The vassal fails, however, to turn up as required, and the emperor mulls a fourth campaign. But a spreading insurgency at home makes a resumption of the offensive impossible. Tenth month, 614: Yangdi returns from the field, first to Luoyang, the eastern capital, then to Chang’an. Early 615: Imperial forces scatter to quell a dozen simultaneous rebellions. Autumn 616: Emperor Yangdi sets out by canal barge for an extended visit to his Yangtze capital, Jiangdu, which replaced the demolished Jiankang. He never returns to the North China seat of the empire. 617: Yangdi is deposed; rival rebel factions enthrone two of his grandsons. Li Yuan, a powerful Sui general, turns rebel and seizes the capital. 618: Yangdi is murdered in his bathhouse by a son of his most trusted general. A period of civil war follows his death.

T A N G D Y N A S T Y: 6 1 8 – 9 0 7 Tang builds on Sui foundations to consolidate and expand the imperial state, strengthening Sui law codes, tightening bureaucratic control, and building up military power. Armed expeditions into Korea, northern Vietnam, Mongolia, and Tibet extend China’s influence and power. At home, the long, gradual process begins by which governance passes from powerful hereditary aristocratic families to a class of gentlemen educated in the classical tradition. Tang produces the remarkable, skilled, corrupt and ruthless Empress Wu, the only woman in China’s history who rules directly as sovereign. With the rise of the civil service comes a renewal of Confucianism. The arts flourish under the Tang dynasty; Tang poetry becomes a model for later eras. Population and economic changes further alter the north/south balance of power. The basis of prosperity is an increase in rice cultivation that population growth in the lower Yangtze valley makes possible. Decline sets in during the latter half of the eighth century, the result of military overextension and rivalries at court. The bloody, destructive rebellion of An Lushan is ultimately crushed and Tang rule is nominally restored, but the dynasty never fully recovers. Imperial authority erodes


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steadily over the last 150 years of the dynasty. Corruption is widespread. Bandits ravage the countryside. During the last fifty years of Tang rule, China is essentially anarchic. 11th month, 617: With support from Turkish

allies, the Sui general Li Yuan’s army overruns Chang’an. The last Sui emperor’s son is installed as puppet ruler. 5th month, 618: Li Yuan deposes the puppet, ascends the throne, and proclaims himself the first emperor of the new dynasty of Tang. He reigns as Gaozu. 619: The new dynasty reestablishes the “equal field” system of land tenure and allocation dating from the Northern Wei and Sui. This guarantees a fixed amount of land for every adult taxpayer and limits the total amount any individual can acquire, at least in theory: officials and aristocratic families are almost certainly excepted. 624: Gaozu defeats the last of his rivals. His authority is secure. 624: Tang issues the first set of codified statutes, modeled on the revised New Code of the first Sui emperor. They are simpler, though, and carry lighter punishments. 6th month, 626: The emperor’s son seizes power in a coup, the “Incident at Xuanwu Gate,” in which he kills two of his brothers, one of them the heir apparent. Gaozu hands over effective control to his ambitious son and abdicates before year’s end. The second Tang emperor rules as Taizong. The Chinese regard this reign, which lasts until 649, as a golden era. Taizong is a warrior, and he can show a foul temper. But he fosters good and honest government, is willing to listen to principled opposition, and is a patron of classical scholarship and a calligrapher of note. Opposition to his military adventures builds during the second half of his reign. The Korea campaigns are particularly unpopular because they fail while costing many lives. 627: The new emperor moves to shrink the bureaucracy, reducing the number of civil and military posts at Chang’an. 629–630: After Eastern Turk invaders ap-

proach the environs of Chang’an, Chinese forces counterattack, win a decisive victory and force the Eastern Turks to pledge allegiance to Tang. 632–635: Tang establishes control over the Central Asian oasis kingdoms beyond the northwest frontier, giving China control of the trade routes into Central Asia. 637: Taizong turns his attention to the provincial bureaucracy, personally selecting candidates for appointment as prefects. Autumn 644: Against his chief ministers’ advice, Taizong prepares an expeditionary force for an attack on the Korean kingdom of Koguryo. Spring 645: Chinese land and naval forces invade Koguryo. The offensive stalls over the summer, however, and by the onset of the bitter Korean winter Taizong is forced to withdraw. Thousands of his troops perish in the retreat. 646: In the wake of an investigating commission’s tour of the provinces, thousands of local administrators are punished for corruption and other misdeeds; seven are executed. Early 647: A renewed attack on Koguryo is inconclusive. 649: Taizong dies; his heir ascends the throne and reigns until 683 as Gaozong. 652: Wu Zhao, the emperor’s young concubine, begins her rise to power. She bears Gaozong a son. 653: A peasant woman, Chen Shuozhen, leads an uprising in modern Zhejiang province on the east coast. Winter 655–656: The Empress Wang is deposed and Wu Zhao is elevated in her place. 657: Some 13,500 imperial bureaucrats rule a population of 45 million. A much larger bureaucracy of clerks and minor officials toils at the local level. 657: Chinese and their Uyghur allies break up the Western Turk empire. Chinese control of the north/northwest frontier region se-

Political History

cures the trade routes leading to western Asia. 660: Gaozong suffers the first of a series of strokes that will incapacitate him for long periods. Standing in for him, Empress Wu rules effectively, despite the handicap of a powerful cultural bias against women in authority. Chinese historians will not treat her kindly; to them, she is capable of any enormity. 668: With assistance from the Korean kingdom of Silla, China defeats Koguryo at last and becomes overlord of all Korea. 669: Tang adopts new regulations intended to limit the influence of family connections on the outcome of civil service examinations. Candidates’ names are to be concealed from their examiners—a requirement that will soon be dropped. 670s: Empress Wu gathers into her entourage the so-called North Gate Scholars, sages who advise her on matters of state. 674: Empress Wu presents a reformist “Twelve Point Memorial” to her husband. It calls for the promotion of agriculture, the reduction of government expenses, and promotion through the bureaucracy by talent. 675: The heir apparent, Li Hong, dies mysteriously. It is alleged that his mother the empress caused him to be poisoned. 680: The Empress Wu accuses the new heir apparent, Li Xian, of plotting rebellion against his imperial parents. She orders him banished, and he is later forced to kill himself. 681: Civil service examinations are made more difficult. Candidates must now write persuasively about political and moral problems and show they have mastered formal styles of prose and poetry. The Ministry of Rites administers exams in politics, literature, mathematics, law, and calligraphy. Of the two main degrees, Ming Jing, which emphasizes memorization of the Confucian classics, and Jin Shi, which emphasizes composition of poetry, Jin Shi becomes the preferred degree. Successful candidates


move on to a second series of exams given by the Ministry of Personnel. These determine a candidate’s placement in the bureaucracy. December 27, 683: Emperor Gaozong dies. December 30, 683: The heir apparent is enthroned as Zhongzong. Winter 683: Nobles and princelings jealous of Wu begin to plot against her. Rebels seize Yangzhou on the Yangtze River and issue an anti-Wu proclamation: “With a heart like a serpent and a nature like that of a wolf, she favored evil sycophants. She has killed her own children. She is hated by the gods and by men alike; neither heaven nor earth can bear her.” Troops sent from the capital quell the Yangzhou rebellion. Early February 684: The empress, fearing a challenge to her power, forces Zhongzong from the throne and has him imprisoned. Next day, another of her sons ascends. Known as Ruizong, he is permitted no role in government. Autumn 688: The lavish Bright Hall is completed. The building of it is a symbolic act, meant to connect Empress Wu with the imagined perfection of the early Zhou dynasty. The hall rises more than 250 feet high and is topped by Wu’s symbol, a phoenix. The princes of the Tang imperial house conspire against the Empress. She breaks up their cabal with ease and over the next eighteen months kills many members of the Li imperial family. 689: Empress Wu appears for the first time in the imperial robes and holding the jade scepter. Late 690: Wu’s high ministers urge her to take full imperial powers. Her son, Ruizong, the captive emperor, obligingly offers to abdicate in her favor. She takes title as sage and divine emperor and calls her new dynasty Zhou. The complacent Ruizong is named her successor. Chinese sources portray the rule of the empress Wu as a carnival of corruption, license, and political terror. Networks of police spies


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and torturers systematically quash opposition to the empress, real and imagined. She has hundreds of her rivals murdered. Through the worst of the palace excesses, though, Tang bureaucracy functions effectively as the day-to-day governmental authority. 695–697: Mongolian Khitan, settled in the region north and east of modern Beijing and miserable in a famine year, rise in rebellion. Internal dissension rather than Chinese suppression ultimately dooms the Khitan revolt. A lovely woman rolls up The delicate bamboo blind. She sits deep within, Twitching her moth eyebrows. Who may it be That grieves her heart? On her face one sees Only the wet traces of tears. Poem by Li Bo (Li Po) (c. 700–762)

698: Resurgent Eastern Turks (Tujue) raid

deep into China from the northwest. They solicit Chinese support with promises to overturn the empress and restore Tang rule. 698: Empress Wu turns on Lai Junchen, a minister who had carried out a reign of terror on her behalf. The capital’s population celebrates the tyrant’s downfall by tearing his corpse to pieces. 705: Strengthened frontier defenses put a temporary end to large-scale raiding by the resurgent Eastern Turks. February 22, 705: Empress Wu is forced to abdicate in favor of the legitimate heir, Zhongzong. She moves to another palace and is treated as royalty until her death later in the year. 710: Zhongzong dies, evidently poisoned by his wife. Ruizong, Wu’s son, succeeds Zhongzong. 7th month, 712: With the appearance of an inauspicious comet, Ruizong abdicates. His successor, a grandson of Gaozong and Em-

press Wu reigning as Xuanzong, reasserts Tang control. The competence and honesty of his rule will make possible a long period of well-being and cultural renaissance. 712–755: Xuanzong rules; it is the longest reign of a Tang monarch. Known as the Enlightened Emperor, he is a poet, musician, and calligrapher of accomplishment, and a patron of the arts and of Daoism. The Chinese will look back on most of Xuanzong’s reign as a time of good government, peace, and prosperity. But the mistakes and overextension of the last years will nearly bring the dynasty down. 721: A Chinese army helps forces of Gilgut repel a Tibetan invasion that would have given Tibet control of the strategically important Pamir region of Central Asia. War with Tibet will be intermittent for much of the century. 722: With its extensive borders, China carries a tremendous military burden. The empire sustains an army of more than 600,000 men. 730: Chinese military successes force Tibet to seek peace. A treaty is signed by which the Tibetan king recognizes China’s suzerainty. 730–734: Natural disasters and intermittent famine blemish an era of general well-being. Grain shortages force the imperial court to move temporarily to Luoyang because Chang’an, overpeopled and difficult of access, cannot be adequately fed, especially in years of scarcity. 736: Khitan revolt in northeast China. The subordinate commander An Lushan leads a failed punitive expedition against the Khitan and is sentenced to death for his failure. He is later pardoned, however. 736–750: Peace in the west breaks down with a renewed Tibetan attack on Gilgut. Fighting, some of it heavy, all of it inconclusive, is more or less constant over the next fifteen years. Autumn 737: The emperor promulgates a new codification of Tang law. In this revision 1,300 irrelevant articles are dropped and

Political History

2,180 are amended. It is the last systematic overhaul of the law during the Tang; the code itself will serve until the fourteenth century. 742: China’s population is 48,990,880, up from 45,431,265 in 732. The empire sustains 490,000 frontier troops with more than 80,000 cavalry horses. (The overall military establishment approaches 600,000.) Most of the frontier army is composed of long-service troops rather than conscripts or militiamen. 742–752: An Lushan wins appointment to a succession of increasingly important military commands. 745: Uyghurs in the region of modern Mongolia complete their rise to power with a decisive victory over the Eastern Turks. The Uyghurs establish their own empire that will last until 840. They maintain good political and economic relations with China during much of the period. 751: Arab forces defeat a Chinese expeditionary army at the battle of the Talas near Samarkand. This marks the high point of Chinese expansion into Central Asia. 755: An Lushan, now the adopted son of Xuanzong’s favorite concubine Yang Guifei and reputed to be her lover, is denied the chief minister’s post and rises in rebellion. Late 755–early 756: An Lushan with a force of 150,000 lays waste to Hebei province and takes Luoyang. The rebel there proclaims himself Emperor of the Great Yan. 7th month, 756: The Tang heir apparent usurps the throne, designates the elderly Xuanzong “retired emperor,” and ascends as Suzong. 756–762: Suzong reigns. 756: An Lushan’s forces take Chang’an. The emperor flees and on the retreat is compelled to allow the murder of Yang Guifei. 757: An Lushan’s son murders him and declares himself emperor. 759: Tang imperial forces retake Chang’an and Luoyang. 762–779: Daizong reigns as Tang emperor.


763: The latest Yan usurper hangs himself af-

ter a defeat and the An Lushan rebellion collapses. A precarious Tang rule is restored. Central authority is confined to four regions: the capital province, the northwest frontier zone, the lower Yangtze, and the corridor of the Grand Canal. An Lushan’s uprising foreshadows the rise of independent military governors and mercenary armies. 763: Large-scale Tibetan raids penetrate deep into China. The raiders carry off thousands of prized Tang stud horses as booty. 779–805: Dezong reigns as emperor. 780: The government institutes a two-tax system, a combination of land and household levies to be collected in the summer and autumn. The land levy is according to the amount owned. The new system enables the state to collect taxes more readily. By overtaxing peasants, it also accelerates the accumulation of large land holdings, a process underway for a century or so.

Frontier drums beating alarm the travelers; At the border the solitary cry of a wild goose. From today the dewdrops will be white with frost; In my native town the moon is shedding a special brightness. All my brothers have been scattered; Homeless, I know not whether they are alive or dead; No mail is ever received, or is likely to be, Since there is still no prospect of the war ending. Poem by Du Fu (Tu Fu) (712–770)

781–786: Renewed outbreaks in the area of

modern Hebei again weaken the Tang hold on China. 784: A new treaty and a redrawn border bring uneasy peace with Tibet. Both sides, however, will soon violate the truce. 791: Tibetans deal Chinese a decisive defeat and expel them from eastern Turkestan.


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China will not return to the region for a thousand years. 805: Shunzong reigns briefly as emperor. 805–820: Xianzong reigns as Tang emperor. 815–817: Imperial forces subdue a military uprising in the region of modern Henan province. 820: Palace eunuchs murder Emperor Xianzong; Muzong ascends the throne. He will reign until 824. 824–826: Jingzong’s brief reign ends abruptly. He possibly is a murder victim of the palace eunuchs; alternatively, he is a dabbler in alchemy and may have died of a drug overdose. 824–840: Wenzong reigns. 830: Troops of the Southern Zhao tribe storm Chengdu in Sichuan and carry off thousands of hostages. December, 835: In the so-called Sweet Dew conspiracy, Wenzong moves to crush the palace eunuchs. They get wind of the conspiracy and foil it. In reprisal, military forces loyal to the eunuchs kill a thousand courtiers. The bloodletting continues into early 836 before the eunuchs proclaim an amnesty. 840–846: Wuzong reigns. His chief minister, Li Deyu, supervises the suppression of Buddhist, Daoist, Nestorian, Zoroastrian, and Manichaean temples and monasteries. We have heard that up through the Three Dynasties the Buddha was never spoken of. So in this latter age it has transmitted its strange ways, instilling its infection with every opportunity, spreading like a luxuriant vine, until it has poisoned the customs of our nation. “Edict on the Suppression of Buddhism,” by the Emperor Wuzong (845)

845: Tang rulers launch a major crackdown

on Buddhism. The power of the monasteries is curbed, the wealth of many larger monasteries is confiscated, and 250,000 clergy are forced to return to lay life. Within a few years, the anti-Buddhist measures will be

substantially relaxed, though very little confiscated property is restored. 846-59: Xuanzong reigns. Near the end of his life, he falls into chronic illness from taking Daoist elixirs and dies at the comparatively young age of forty-nine. 859–873: Yizong reigns. Intermittent peasant uprisings and increasingly bitter rivalries between imperial courtiers and the palace eunuchs mark the reigns of Yizong and his successors. January, 860: A small peasant uprising in modern Zhejiang province swells into a major revolt; Tang forces need six months to quell it. 861: Southern Zhao forces sack Yongzhou. 868–869: With broad peasant support, dissident army officers mutiny in Guangxi. The insurgency rages for fourteen months before imperial forces put it down. 873–888: Xizong reigns as emperor. 874: Insurgent peasants in Shandong defeat local Tang forces and advance into Henan, capturing many cities and towns. 878–884: The bandit Huang Chao, at the head of a growing gang army, ravages Guangdong, Guangxi, Hunan, and other provinces as he moves northward toward the capital. 881: Huang Chao’s army of 600,000 seizes Chang’an, sacks it, and reduces it to ruins. The imperial court moves to Luoyang. 881–884: Imperial forces regroup and cut off rebels in Chang’an. 883: Zhu Wen, a bandit commander under Huang Chao, surrenders to imperial forces and is rewarded with a provincial military governorship. 884: With his retreating army cornered near Mount Taishan, Huang Chao kills himself. 885: At the head of a mercenary army, Emperor Xizong returns to Chang’an after a four-year exile. The capital is a near ruin. His stay will be temporary, however, and he has trouble paying his mercenary forces because the Tang government is no longer able to collect taxes.

Political History


888–904: Zhaozong reigns. His rule is nom-

903: Zhu Wen leads a massacre of eunuchs

inal and confined to the capital district. Powerful independent military governors control central and eastern China, modern Henan, Shandong, and Anhui. In the south, in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze, small independent states emerge. 890–907: Zhu Wen gradually establishes control over a large area of northern China.

in Shanxi province and in Chang’an and becomes the effective ruler of the capital. 904: Zhu Wen murders the emperor; Aizong ascends as the last Tang emperor. 907: Zhu Wen deposes Aizong and proclaims himself emperor of the Later Liang dynasty, the first of the short-lived Five Dynasties in an era of disunion.

FIVE DYNASTIES AND TEN KINGDOMS: 907–960 This brief era is a transition from the splintering of the later Tang to the reunification of most of China under the first emperors of the Song dynasty. Five successive short-lived dynasties rule the North China plain, with the last of the five, the Later Zhou, claiming control of the largest area. Altogether, thirteen emperors reign during the fifty-three-year period. The overlapping Ten Kingdoms rule different regions of South China. In the north, palace coups, power struggles, rebellions, raids from beyond the frontiers, and economic dislocation characterize these turbulent decades. South China is comparatively peaceful by contrast. In fact, in the South, disunion appears to have stimulated economic development. 907: Zhu Wen establishes the Later Liang dy-

nasty in the North China plain, with its capital at Kaifeng. 907–923: The Later Liang emperors rule all or part of present Henan, Shaanxi, Shandong, Hubei, Hebei, Shanxi, Gansu, and Anhui provinces. 907–925: The former Shu kingdom controls modern Sichuan and parts of Gansu, Shaanxi, and Hubei provinces in west central China. 907–936: The Khitan people launch intermittent raids from Mongolia across China’s northeastern frontier; they gradually hold and rule Chinese territory. 907–951: The kingdom of Chu rules in Hunan and part of Guangxi in South China. 907–971: The Southern Han kingdom controls parts of present Guangdong and Guangxi in South China. 907–978: The kingdom of Wuyue rules parts of modern Zhejiang and Jiangsu on the East

China coast. The Northern Song eventually absorbs the kingdom. 909–945: The kingdom of Min rules modern Fujian province on the South China coast. 920: Royal forces mobilize to crush a large peasant uprising in present Henan province. 920–937: The kingdom of Wu rules in parts of present Jiangsu, Anhui, Jiangxi, and Hubei. 923: With the collapse of the Later Liang dynasty, the first emperor of the Later Tang dynasty, Li Cunxu, comes to power. The Later Tang emperors will expand their area of authority and rule from the ancient capital of Luoyang. 924–963: The kingdom of Jingnan rules part of modern Hubei. The Northern Song absorbs the little kingdom. 934–965: The Later Shu kingdom controls Sichuan and parts of Gansu, Shaanxi, and Hubei before falling to the Northern Song. 936: Shi Jingtang overthrows the Later Tang


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and establishes the Later Jin dynasty. The Jin moves the capital back to Kaifeng. 937–975: The kingdom of Southern Tang rules parts of Jiangsu, Anhui, Jiangxi, Hunan, and Hubei in the Han, Gan, and Yangtze valleys. 946: A large-scale invasion of Khitan from Mongolia devastates North China. Khitan occupy Kaifeng and topple the Jin dynasty. 947–950: The Later Han dynasty, with Khitan support, briefly succeeds the Jin. 951: Guo Wei founds the Later Zhou dynasty and rules from Kaifeng. Zhou rulers manage some reforms, including reductions in rents

and taxes. Criminal penalties are lightened and corrupt government officials are exposed and punished. 951–979: The Northern Han kingdom, a remnant of the Later Han, controls parts of Shanxi, Shaanxi, and Hebei in north China. 960: Later Zhou dynasty forces mobilize to meet the invading Khitan. The Zhou senior commander seizes power for himself and founds the Song dynasty. He quickly brings North China under his control and gradually absorbs the independent kingdoms to the south.

N O RT H E R N S O N G D Y N A S T Y: 9 6 0 – 1 1 2 5 The three centuries of the Song dynasties form one of China’s greatest ages. In an astonishing burst of creative energy, China surges to the fore in technical innovation, political theory, culture and the arts. At the same time, however, invaders from Inner Asia gradually assert political control over large sections of the country. Rapid economic growth, both in agriculture and industry, marks the early Song period. The pace of southward migration picks up, and the Yangtze valley comes to overshadow the Yellow River valley in the north as a locus of Chinese life. Rice becomes the chief component of the Chinese diet. The Northern Song capital of Kaifeng, at the junction of the Yellow River and the Grand Canal, grows into a great trading center. Coal powers the development of iron smelting and other industries in North China. The mariners’ compass for navigation is a key Song invention. The Song era sees a reinvigoration of Confucian ideas. The spread of the printed book makes possible the expansion of education. The first Song emperors extend the examination system for the governing bureaucracy. Buddhism, as foreign and thus barbarian, wanes in influence in the upper classes (though it is still quite important on lower levels of society); the scholar Shi Jie admonishes the Chinese not to “forget their ancestors and abandon sacrifices to them, serving instead barbarian ghosts.” Neoconfucian reformers become increasingly influential. Their challenges to the imperial court and the civil service to be less selfish and to reach for the highest Confucian ideals are broadly influential. The great Song weakness is national defense. Song rulers, rising to power through scholarship rather than warfare, turn away from the aristocratic and military traditions of the steppes. Soldiers are regarded less highly even than merchants; Song uses expensive, often unreliable mercenary troops to guard its frontiers. Over the dynasty’s life, Inner Asian tribal peoples conquer large swaths of China. The Khitan Liao (907–1125) dynasty, moving into China from the grasslands to the north, opens a period of nearly five centuries of foreign rule of parts of China, though it is confined to the far north. Later, the Tangut Xia (1032–1227) from the northwest and then the Jurchen Jin (1125–1234) from eastern Manchuria incorporate Chinese territory into their empires. These dynasties adopt Chinese political customs and use Chinese bureaucrats to help them rule.

Political History


Weak defenses lead directly to the collapse of the Northern Song in 1126 and a new division of China. The vigorous Jin dynasty rules in the north as, in effect, an equal rival to China’s Southern Song, whose domain is restricted to the Huai River valley southward. 907: The chieftain Abaoji becomes the un-

challenged leader of the Khitan federation. The Khitan, whose original territory lay between the Manchurian forests to the east and the dry grasslands to the west, are still seminomadic, but they increasingly practice settled farming and weaving and produce salt and iron. 909: A Khitan army invades Hebei, defeating Chinese forces near the present city of Tianjin. 916: After disposing of his rivals, Abaogi proclaims himself emperor, founds the Liao dynasty, declares himself the equal of China’s rulers, and signals his intention to gain control of North China. (He reigns until 926.) Marco Polo’s name for North China, Cathay, is a corrupted form of Khitan. From their southern capital at Beijing, the Khitan eventually will rule an empire encompassing Manchuria, Mongolia and a strip of North China. They will rule with Chinese help, and in the Chinese way. 926–947: Taizong is Liao emperor. 928: An independent Tangut state, the forerunner of Xia, comes into being in northwest China. Early 947: Khitan forces raid southward into the North China plain and occupy Kaifeng. Fourth month, 947: Harassed by Chinese insurgents, Liao forces withdraw from Kaifeng. 947: The Liao empire is formally subdivided into two parts for administrative purposes: the Northern, or Khitan, Division and the Southern, or Chinese, Division. 947–951: Shizong rules as Liao emperor. 951–969: Muzong reigns in Liao. He is undistinguished, lazy, a heavy drinker; his Chinese subjects call him “the Sleeping Prince.” 960: Later Zhou forces mobilize to drive off the Khitan invaders. Troops loyal to the Later Zhou commander Zhao Kuangyin

declare him emperor. With his brother Zhao Kuangyi, he founds the Song dynasty. Reigning until 976 as Taizu, he puts an end to two hundred years of independent regional armies, reorganizes the imperial forces for the task of restoring central rule, and extends imperial authority through most of China. 960: China’s population approaches 80 million. 960–975: The Song dynasty conquers the states of Jingnan, Later Shu, Southern Han, and Southern Tang. 963: Song forces attack Northern Han in Shanxi. With Khitan help, the Han army turns back the invasion. 969–983: Jingzong is Liao emperor. 976: Zhao Kuangyi succeeds his brother as emperor, taking the title of Taizong. Later historians suspect him of murdering his brother to gain the throne. 977: The Song government appoints five border marshals to regulate trade with Liao. 978: Wuyue falls to the Song. Spring 979: The Song dynasty launches a new invasion of Northern Han, the last surviving independent Chinese state, and defeats Han’s Liao allies. 6th month, 979: Last Han forces surrender to the Song. Victorious imperial forces continue the northward advance toward the Khitan capital at Beijing. 7th month, 979: Khitan rout Song army southwest of Beijing. Emperor Taizong is forced to retreat in a donkey cart. 979–986: Liao forces in present Hebei and Shanxi repulse recurring Song efforts to draw their state into the Chinese empire. 983–1031: Shenzong reigns as Liao emperor. 990: Liao emperor recognizes a “king of Xia.” 993: Wang Xiaobo leads peasant uprising in present Sichuan. Insurgents demand redistribution of wealth from rich to poor.


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Xiaobo’s successor, Li Shun, takes Chengdu, asserts control of the region around it, and founds a rebel regime he calls the Great Shu. 995: Song forces crush a peasant uprising in Sichuan. 997–1067: During this middle period of Northern Song, bureaucratic corruption becomes widespread; in the northwest, Liao and the growing power of the Xia state threaten the dynasty. 997–1022: Zhenzong is Song emperor. Summer 999: The Liao emperor mobilizes for a campaign against the Song. Over the following months, the Khitan army advances into Hebei; the offensive eventually stalls, though, and the army is recalled and disbanded. 1001–1003: Liao carries out intermittent warfare against the Song. 1004: A major Liao invasion reaches the Yellow River less than seventy miles from the Song capital at Kaifeng. It loses momentum, however, and both sides begin to talk peace. Song diplomats negotiate a treaty in which China agrees to pay an annual tribute of 100,000 ounces of silver and 200,000 bolts of silk in return for peace. Except for minor outbreaks, the treaty will hold for most of the century. 1016–1073: Lifespan of Zhou Dunyi, a leading Neoconfucian thinker. 1020: Song government encourages the expansion of schools with grants of land and books. Within eighty years the state school system supports 200,000 students. 1021: The population of Kaifeng, the Song capital, reaches 500,000 within the city walls. 1022–1063: Renzong reigns as Northern Song emperor. 1031–1055: Xingzong is Liao emperor. 10th month, 1038: The Xia ruler formally proclaims a dynasty and sends an embassy to the Song capital to announce the fact. He will reign until 1048 as Jingzong. 994:

Before the rest of the world starts worrying, the scholar worries; after the rest of the world rejoices, he rejoices. Fan Zhongyan, Confucian reformer of the Northern Song dynasty

1039–1044: Song and Xia forces clash in parts

of modern Shaanxi and Gansu. Song forces suffer several major defeats and the war ends in a partial victory for the Xia, who now control large areas of north and northwest China, including the Ordos Desert region and modern Gansu and Qinghai. 1041: The Song army totals 1.25 million men. Military spending accounts for three-fourths of imperial revenues. 1042: With Song China preoccupied with the Xia war, Liao demands new territorial cessions. 1042–1043: The scholar-official Fan Zhongyan is ascendant at the Song imperial court. Fan Zhongyan undertakes to reform the civil service and local administration; he alters the examination system to emphasize application of Confucian thought to practical problems of state. He reduces labor service levies and adopts measures to improve agricultural production. He and his faction soon fall from power, however. 1043: Chinese living in the Southern Division of the Liao empire are forbidden to own bows and arrows. 1044: Northern Song ratifies revised treaty with Liao, agreeing to increase tribute of silver and silk in exchange for peace and a withdrawal of Khitan territorial demands. At the same time, Song negotiates a treaty with Xia that includes tribute payments to this rival. 1048: Yizong comes to the Xia throne as an infant. 1055–1101: Daozong reigns as Liao emperor. Early in the reign, he continues the process of sinicization of the Liao state. Among other things, he orders ritual observances to

Political History

honor Confucian sages. Later, a backlash leads to anti-Chinese discrimination in the Liao domain. 1057: Ouyang Xiu directs a new brief burst of reform in Northern Song. He changes the examination system to emphasize classical learning even more strongly at the expense of literary learning. 1063–1067: Yingzong is Northern Song emperor. 1067: Shenzong succeeds Yingzong as Song emperor. He falls under the influence of the Confucian reformer Wang Anshi (1021– 1086). Wang advocates greater state intervention in the economy, partly to increase state revenues and partly to reduce what he sees as abuses of private power deriving from great wealth and economic monopoly. He continues Ouyang Xiu’s reform of the examination system, eliminating the literary component entirely. 1068: Shenzong backs Wang Anshi’s measures to attack corruption and inequalities of wealth. 1068–1086: Huizong reigns as Xia emperor. 1069–1075: Wang Anshi’s reforms, the socalled New Laws, are successively implemented in Northern Song. Some lead to social unrest; others appear to be successful. Wang Anshi sets up the loan program known as the Green Sprouts Act, enabling farmers in difficulty to borrow seed grain in the spring against the expected harvest in the autumn. He imposes price controls and extends credit to small merchants and manufacturers. Modern scholars regard Wang as a prototype of the totalitarian. 1070: Chinese in Liao are forbidden to hunt, inasmuch as hunting is viewed as a form of military training. A new law code attempts to preserve Khitan customs, but it is cumbersome and will soon be abandoned. 1076: Wang Anshi, his reforms drawing bitter opposition, resigns his imperial post. One of his leading opponents, the scholar, poet, and


painter Su Dongpo, falls too. Su, who accuses Wang of trying to force everyone to think alike, is thrown in prison and expects to be put to death. 1077: The Lu family proposes an early form of the citizens’ forum that will be known as the Community Compact, which will come into widespread use during the Ming dynasty. Forum meetings discuss and adopt regulations for behavior. 1080–1084: Escaping execution, Su Dongpo is demoted from his high civil service position and exiled to the provinces. 1081–1083: Song forces attack Xia and gain ground, taking the city of Lanzhou. 1085–1100: With Shenzong’s death, Zhezong reigns as Northern Song emperor. 1086: The historian Sima Guang, a conservative opponent of Wang Anshi’s policies, is briefly chief imperial minister. With support from such allies as Su Dongpo, who returns to the capital on the emperor’s death, he manages to overturn most of Wang Anshi’s policies. 1086–1139: Chongzong reigns as Xia emperor. 1090: A visitor to the Khitan court reports that Liao law now weighs no more heavily on Chinese subjects than the Khitan tribes themselves. But he is astonished at the high level of court corruption. 1091–1093: Song renew attacks on Xia. Imperial forces again conquer territory, but are unable to consolidate their gains. 1096–1099: Intermittent fighting resumes between Song and Xia. 1100–1125: Huizong reigns as the next-to-last Northern Song emperor. A talented painter and a patron of the arts and of Daoism, he is classed a weak and indifferent ruler. 1101–1125: Tianzuo is Liao emperor. 1102: Jurchen tribes—farmers, herders, and hunters originally from the mountain forests of eastern Manchuria—raid Khitan Liao frontiers.


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Autumn 1114: Jurchen pressure against Liao

builds and Jurchen forces prevail in two major frontier-area battles. 1115: The Jurchen chief proclaims himself first emperor of the Jin dynasty. He reigns until 1123 as Taizu. 1117: Song diplomats agree to help the Jurchens against Liao, expecting to divide up Liao territory as a result. 1119: The Song negotiates a treaty with Xia, ending four years of costly warfare. 1120: Fang La leads brief, violent uprising in modern Zhejiang province in southeast China and raises a large army. Song forces capture and execute Fang La in 1121, and his revolt swiftly collapses. 1120: The flourishing south coastal city of Quanzhou claims a population of 500,000, including the hinterland. Spring 1122: In alliance with the Jin, Song forces advance on Liao Beijing but fail to capture the city. A Jin army seizes the city instead. 1123: Jin diplomats negotiate a treaty with the Song by which they receive in annual tribute 200,000 ounces of silver and 300,000 bolts of silk. This is well within the capabilities of the prosperous Song Chinese, whose economy continues to boom despite nearly constant warfare along the frontiers.

1123–1135: Taizong is emperor of the Jin dy-

nasty. Second month, 1125: Jurchens capture Tian-

zuo, the last Liao emperor, bringing the dynasty to an end. Autumn 1125: Jurchens launch full-scale war against the Song, advancing into Shanxi and Hebei on the North China plain. Early 1126: Jurchens cross the Yellow River and threaten Song capital at Kaifeng. 1126: Huizong abdicates in favor of his son, who will rule as Qinzong. 1126–1127: Qinzong is last emperor of the Northern Song. February 10, 1126: Jurchens lift the siege of Kaifeng after Song diplomats agree to cede large swatches of northern territory and increase annual tribute payments. January 9, 1127: After war flares anew, the Jurchens enter Kaifeng, pillage the capital, and force the Song to abandon all of North China. With help from generals including Yue Fei (1103–1141), Prince Kang of the Song imperial family retreats southeastward and sets up a new capital in the south, first at modern Nanjing, later at Hangzhou. He will reign as Gaozong, first emperor of the Southern Song. May 1127: Jurchens escort two former Song emperors into captivity in the north.

SOUTHERN SONG: 1127–1279 The Song imperial entourage, preferring retreat over resistance to the Manchurian Jurchens moving south from the grasslands, establishes a new court and capital at Hangzhou on the East China Sea. Though China is again divided, what remains to the Song is vast—700,000 square miles, with a population of 60 million. The Song extends China’s cultural, artistic, and technological achievement despite intermittent warfare with the neighboring Xia and Jin states. Books assume increasing importance: not only literary and philosophical works, but also practical guides to farming, childbirth, pharmacy, and Daoism. Southern Song develops some elements of a modern economy, with paper money, credit instruments, and sophisticated foreign trade. The merchant class expands in size, wealth, and influence. China becomes a leader in maritime trade; Chinese merchant sailors ply routes to India, Arabia, and Africa. Trade among nearer neighbors is strong as well. For most of their

Political History


long rivalry, commerce between the Southern Song and the Jin is uninterrupted, to both states’ advantage. Tea is a major export from Southern Song. With new strains of seed, marsh drainage, and other technological advances, rice culture flourishes in the Southern Song. Urban life develops rapidly. Industrial districts in and near Southern Song cities turn out paper, ceramics, lacquerware, and metal products. Inventors and artisans develop new armaments, particularly those using gunpowder, and advanced shipbuilding methods. China’s seagoing junks, with four decks, four to six masts, and a carrying capacity of a thousand men, are the most powerful vessels of their time. 1126: China’s population reaches 100 mil-

lion. 1126-1138: Refugees from the north flood the

Yangtze valley ahead of Jurchen invaders. 1127–1130: In North China, the Jurchens’ Jin empire formally introduces a Chinese bureaucratic system, staffed largely with Chinese; for the time being, it applies only to the Jin empire’s Chinese population. At the same time, the Jin rulers impose compulsory military service and raise taxes. 1127–1162: Gaozong is emperor of what we now call the Southern Song. He gradually consolidates imperial power in the Yangtze valley. 1129: Gaozong crushes a coup attempt by generals who favor a more aggressive stance against the Jurchen Jin dynasty of the north. 1130–1135: Period of intermittent warfare between Southern Song and the Jurchens. Song forces under Yue Fei recover several provinces from the Jin. The emperor restrains the general, however, in favor of buying peace with tribute. 1135: The former Song emperor Huizong dies in captivity in North China. Yue Fei leads campaign to subdue the bandit army of Dongting Lake, pacifying the middle Yangtze region for the Southern Song. 1138–1150: Xizong rules as emperor of the Jin dynasty. 1138: Song imperial forces control most of China south of the Huai River. They establish a long-term capital at Hangzhou, a provincial city of some 200,000 known for its lake and lovely setting.

Green mountains surround on all sides the still waters of the lake. One would say, a landscape composed by a painter. Only toward the east, where there are no hills, does the land open out, and there sparkle, like fishes’ scales, the brightcolored tiles of a thousand roofs. Description of Hangzhou, the Song capital (13th century)

1139–1193: Renzong reigns as Xia emperor. 1139: Southern Song negotiators conclude a

preliminary treaty with the Jin against the advice of Yue Fei, who proposes to lead an army to conquer North China and reunify the country. The Jin introduces a new Jurchen script. For a time, three official written languages are in use in North China: Jurchen, Khitan, and Chinese. 1140: The Jin breaks the treaty and attacks Southern Song China on several fronts. Under Yue Fei, Song armies counterattack and drive back the Jin. Song forces regain some territory in Henan before the emperor orders Yue Fei to withdraw. Summer 1140: Song armies form a defensive line along the old frontier of the Huai River. Early 1141: Jin forces launch a new invasion. Qin Gui, a key adviser of the Emperor Gaozong, pushes strongly for peace talks. He keeps Yue Fei, the Song’s best commander, in the capital, then arrests him. Allegedly in response to a Jin demand, Qin Gui arranges Yue Fei’s murder in prison. October–December 1141: Song and Jin negotiators conclude a new treaty that recog-


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nizes the division of China and, in formal terms, makes the Song a vassal of the Jin. October 11, 1142: Jin envoy’s appearance at the Southern Song court is a formal ratification of the peace accord. By terms of Qin Gui’s treaty, the Southern Song cede North China to the Huai River and agree to pay a large annual tribute of silver and silk to the Jin. The Jurchens, totaling around 6 million of North China’s 45 million population, will rule until 1234. They build a Chinese-style bureaucracy; many native Chinese become Jin civil servants. 1142–1143: Famine and earthquake lead to hardship, unrest, and uprisings in northwest China. Southern Song forces help Xia pacify the insurgents. 1144–1147: Confucian institutions are introduced in the Xia state. Schools, a training college for civil servants and an examination system are established. A Confucian cult is encouraged. January 9, 1150: Court conspirators murder the violent, morbid, and paranoid Jin emperor Xizong. 1150–1161: Hailing, the leading figure in the Xizong murder conspiracy, rules the Jin. Chinese and Jurchen sources both portray him as cruel, ruthless, and homicidal. Yet he is a passionate admirer of Chinese culture, adopts such characteristic Song customs as tea-drinking and chess-playing, and further sinicizes Jin government. 1152: Hailing rebuilds Yanjing near modern Beijing, takes up residence there, and styles the city the Central Capital. In 1157, he decrees Kaifeng the southern capital. 1159–1160: The Jin mobilize for a new campaign against the Southern Song. Jin forces include 120,000 Jurchen and 150,000 Chinese conscripts; some 560,000 horses are requisitioned. October 28, 1161: Jin army crosses the Huai River and advances toward the Yangtze. November 26–27, 1161: Song defenders repulse the Jin army’s attempt to cross the

Yangtze to invade the Southern Song heartland. December 15, 1161: Officers’ cabal murders Hailing in camp near the Yangtze front. Shizong ascends the throne. 1161–1189: Reforms in education, the economy, and administration mark the long, stable reign of the Jin emperor Shizong. Early 1162: Shizong withdraws Jin armies from the line of the Yangtze and sends a peace envoy to the Southern Song court. Border clashes continue, however. 1162: Gaozong abdicates as Southern Song emperor; his son succeeds as Xiaozong, who will rule until 1189. 1165: The Song dynasty concludes a new peace treaty with the Jin, agreeing to increase its annual tribute payments by fifty thousand ounces of silver and fifty thousand bolts of silk. 1187: The population of the Jin state is 44,705,086. 1189–1191: Guangzong rules as the Southern Song emperor. 1189–1208: Zhangzong is the Jin emperor. He is an accomplished calligrapher and patron of the arts. 1191–1192: Khitan script, still in use from the era of the Liao state, is formally abolished by the Jin. 1192: Jin army throws up defensive works on the northwestern frontier to check the growing power of the Mongols. 1193–1205: Henzong is emperor of the Xia dynasty. 1194–1224: Ningzong is emperor of Southern Song. 5th month, 1202: Jin formally adopts the Chinese legal code of the Tang dynasty. 1205: The Mongols, the new great power on the steppe, launch their first raid into Xia territory. Raiders sack fortified frontier towns and carry away livestock. June 14, 1206: The Southern Song dynasty declares war on the Jin. The declaration asserts that the Jin has lost the Mandate of Heaven and thus the right to rule. It also

Political History

calls for an uprising of Chinese within Jin borders. 1206: Temujin is enthroned as the Great Khan of the Mongols—Chinggis (Ghengis) Khan. Autumn 1206: Jin forces repulse the Song offensive, cross the Huai River, and occupy Song strongholds in southern Shaanxi. Fighting continues intermittently through the next year. 1206–1208: Frequent Mongol raids lead Xia to seek an alliance with the Jin to the east. The Jurchens refuse to cooperate. “It is to our advantage when our enemies attack one another,” the Jin prince observes. “Wherein lies the danger to us?” 1206–1211: Xianzong reigns as Xia emperor. 1207: The Jin state’s population is 53,532,151; that of China as a whole, 110–120 million. July 1208: Victorious Jin declares the war with Song at an end; the Song sends to Jin the head of the minister who started the war, Han Tuozhou. November 2, 1208: A new peace treaty with Jin increases the Song annual tribute by 50,000 ounces of silver and 50,000 bolts of silk. 1209–1213: Wei Shao rules the Jin, but is not accorded the title of emperor. Autumn 1209: Mongols launch major invasion of Xia territory. 1210: After a series of defeats, Xia nominally submits to the Mongols, who then turn their attention to the Jin state. 1211–1223: Shenzong is Xia emperor. Spring 1211: Two Mongol armies push up to the Jin borders. Mongolian forces clear the mountain pass that protects Yanjing, plunder the countryside around the capital, and withdraw before winter. 1211: The Red Jacket bandit/guerrilla uprising spreads in Shandong in northeast China. It flares intermittently until 1227, when the insurgents swear fealty to the Mongols. Spring 1213: Mongols return, raiding into Hebei, Shandong, and Shanxi. Eighth month, 1213: The Jin ruler Wei Shao


is murdered; Xuanzong ascends the throne. He reigns until 1224. Spring 1214: Under Mongol pressure, Jurchens shift their capital south from Yanjing to Kaifeng. May 31, 1215: Yanjing surrenders to the Mongols. 1220–1222: Jurchen diplomatic missions seek peace with Mongols but are rebuffed. 1223–1226: Xianzong rules as emperor of the Xia. 1224–1234: Aizong—the “pitiable ancestor”—is emperor of the Jin. 1224–1264: Lizong reigns as Song emperor. 1225: Mongols invade Shandong in northeast China. Spring 1226: Mongols launch a new invasion of Xia, overrunning most of Xia’s territory. Xia emperor Xianzong is said to have died of fright. 1226–1227: Xian is the last Xia emperor. In the sixth month of 1227, Mongols besiege his capital, force him to surrender, and kill him on the spot when he does. August 15, 1227: Chinggis [Ghengis] Khan dies. He is succeeded by his son Ogodei. 1230–1231: Mongols mount a new invasion of Jin territory. 1230: Red Jackets advance into Song territory as far as the Yangtze. February 18, 1231: The Red Jacket leader is killed in battle with Southern Song forces; the movement collapses. April 8, 1232: Mongols move up to walls of Kaifeng. Jin defenders use Chinese gunpowder and a weapon known as a “fire lance,” probably a rocket, against the besiegers. Summer 1232: Famine and disease spread through Kaifeng. As many as 900,000 are said to have perished within a few weeks in the capital of what some modern scholars believe is bubonic plague. Winter 1233: Aizong slips out of stricken Kaifeng and makes his way south toward Song territory. May 29, 1233: Kaifeng surrenders to the Mongols.


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1234: Aizong commits suicide; Modi is the

last Jin emperor. He falls in battle with the Mongols, bringing down the Jin state. 1237: As Mongol threat looms, Southern Song river and coastal defense navy totals twenty-two squadrons manned by 52,000 sailors. 1260s: Song reformers try to root out corruption among eunuchs, bureaucrats, and imperial relatives. This causes deep divisions in the Song court on the eve of the Mongol invasion. 1260–1261: Mongol rulers of North China send envoys to the Song court; they are rebuffed. 1264: Khubilai, grandson of Chinggis [Ghengis] Khan, ascends throne of the Great Khan of the Mongols. He moves his capital from Karakoram in Mongolia to Beijing and prepares to invade Song China. 1264–1274: Duzong is Song emperor. 1265: Mongol and Song forces clash in the western region of Sichuan. 1268: Full-scale war breaks out between the Mongols and the Southern Song. Mongol army lays siege to the Han River fortress of Xiangyang, the key to control of the Yangtze valley. 1271: Khubilai chooses a Chinese name, Yuan, for his dynasty and adopts Chinese court rituals. He departs from all precedence by not choosing his native place as the name

for the dynasty. Rather, he gave it a name with a meaning: the auspicious word yuan, meaning “prime.” 1274–1276: Gongdi, a child, is last emperor of the Song. March 1273: Battered by Mongol artillery hurling rocks weighing as much as a hundred pounds apiece, Song forces surrender the fortress of Xiangyang after a five-year siege. January 1275: Mongol armies cross the Yangtze, driving the Song defenders before them. The dowager empress Xie, acting for the underage emperor, issues a call for a mass uprising against the barbarians. December 1275: Xie sends to Mongols for peace terms, hoping to avoid a slaughter if Hangzhou, the world’s largest (with 1.1 million people), richest, and most cosmopolitan city, is taken by force. The Mongol commander offers unconditional surrender. January 1276: Mongols are given the seal of the Song dynasty and enter Hangzhou. The imperial family is taken north to Khubilai Khan’s court at Beijing. 1276–1278: Mongols resume southward advance and continue their conquest, breaking up bands of increasingly demoralized Song loyalists. March 1279: Mongols defeat the last of the loyal Song forces in a naval battle off the Guangdong coast.

Y U A N D Y N A S T Y: 1 2 7 9 – 1 3 6 8 For the first time in its long history, China is wholly under foreign domination, a division of the vast Mongol empire. Many Chinese, especially southern Chinese, despise their conquerors, though they adapt to some of their ways. The Mongols do not force the Chinese to follow alien customs, but in some ways their rule weighs heavily. They bar the Chinese from trading in bamboo, for it could be used to fashion bows and arrows. Intermarriage is prohibited. Taxes are burdensome, and there is some expropriation of land and some forced resettlement. The economy, especially in war-ravaged (and possibly plague-decimated) North China, is badly damaged and will need decades to recover. At times, the Yuan rulers keep Chinese out of important governmental posts. Even when they are welcomed, though, some Chinese scholars—a small but influential and much-honored

Political History


minority—are reluctant to serve the new regime. With the decline in numbers of educated men entering the bureaucracy, the arts, particularly drama and painting, flourish. Some 160 complete plays survive from the Yuan era, most of them in four acts with alternate spoken passages and sung lyrics. The Chinese novel develops during this period as well. The Mongols, brilliant conquerors, are less adept at consolidating their gains. All the same, they could claim some achievements. Advances are made in agriculture and education. Trade is promoted. Khubilai Khan extends the Grand Canal to the Yuan capital at present-day Beijing. The post road system is also extended. In the end, the Mongols cannot hold what they seize. The first half of the fourteenth century brings a succession of severe winters, floods, famine, and plagues, calamities that uproot tens of thousands of people and prepare a fertile soil for rebellion. During the closing decades of the dynasty, the effectiveness of civil government markedly declines. The Yuan dynasty lasts less than a century. 1253–1254: Mongols under Khubilai con-

quer Yunnan in southwest China. May 1261: Khubilai, now Great Khan of the Mongols, entertains proposals for governing the conquered domains of China. “If the proposals are useful, the court will liberally promote and reward the persons who make the proposals,” he promises. 1267: Khubilai Khan orders the construction of a new capital at the site of modern Beijing, with avenues wide enough for cavalry to ride nine abreast. The leading Confucian scholar Xu Heng (1209–1281) becomes chancellor of the Imperial College. All Cathaians detested the rule of the great khan because he set over them Tartars [Mongols], or still more frequently Saracens [Arabs], whom they could not endure, for they treated them like slaves. The Travels of Marco Polo (13th century)

1271: Khubilai Khan claims the Mandate of

Heaven and decrees himself emperor of China. He takes the reign name of Shizu, calls his dynasty Yuan (meaning “prime” or “original”) and establishes an imperial court in the Chinese manner. Over the next eight years, he will extend his rule to the entire country.

First month, 1274: Khubilai Khan holds first

court in his new capital. 1274: Using the captured Song fleet, Mon-

gols attempt to invade Japan. Typhoons force the fleet to return to Chinese shores. 1278–1284: Huang Hua leads an intermittent rebellion against the Yuan. Spring 1281: Yuan invasion force of 100,000 troops, 15,000 sailors and 900 vessels lands in Japan. On August 15, a typhoon strikes Japan, destroying close to half the Yuan invasion force. The Japanese call this storm kamikaze (divine wind). Khubilai calls off the campaign and the survivors return to China. Imperial forces quell a rebellion south of the Yangtze; Khubilai’s troops are said to behead twenty thousand insurgents. April 10, 1282: Dissident Chinese ambush and kill the imperial finance minister, the Muslim Ahmad. Chinese sources stigmatize Ahmad as the first of the three “villainous ministers.” May 1285: Ahmad’s successor, Lu Shijung, the second of the ministerial villains, is arrested and later executed. His successor is Sangha, believed to be a Tibetan. 1286–1287: Yuan army campaigns in Annam (modern northern Vietnam). Though the fighting is inconclusive, Annam and neighboring Champa (today’s southern Vietnam) agree to send tribute to the Yuan court.


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1290: According to a government census,

August 15, 1328: Taiding’s death touches off

China’s registered population is 58,834,711. Even though the actual population is doubtless higher, it still represents a significant decrease, especially in the north, and is largely the consequence of the Mongol invasion, war, famine, and perhaps plague. August 1291: Sangha, the last of the three villainous ministers, is removed from office and executed. February 18, 1294: Khubilai Khan, old, fat, and crippled with gout, dies in his palace. May 10, 1294: Chengzong, a grandson of Khubilai, is enthroned as emperor of the Yuan dynasty. He issues an edict calling for the veneration of Confucius. 1298: Chengzong rejects a recommendation for a third attempt to invade Japan. He sends a monk on a peace mission to Japan in 1299. Spring 1303: Imperial investigation of government corruption ends with the conviction of more than eighteen thousand officials and clerks. 1307–1311: Wuzong is Yuan emperor. His brief reign is noteworthy for the bloating of the bureaucracy and for the emperor’s spending excesses. April 1311: Renzong, the younger brother of Wuzong, ascends the Yuan throne. He will reduce expenses and attempt to shrink the bureaucracy. 1315: Yuan rulers restore China’s examination system. They set quotas assuring half the degrees are awarded to Mongols and other non-Chinese candidates. April 19, 1320: Yingzong (Shidebala to Mongolians) succeeds his father as Yuan emperor. September 4, 1323: Disaffected Mongolian princes lead a coup that topples Yingzong; the emperor and his chief minister are murdered. October 4, 1323: Taiding, a participant in the coup, ascends the Yuan throne. He surrounds himself with Muslim advisors; Chinese officials will have scant influence during his reign.

the most violent succession struggle of the Yuan dynasty. October 1328: With the ascension of Taiding’s son Tianshun, civil war breaks out. 1328–1332: The war of succession rages. A rival faction installs the Mongol prince Tug Temur on the throne (1328); he abdicates in favor of his older brother, who rules briefly before he is poisoned, allegedly at Tug Temur’s order; Tug Temur then regains the imperial seal and reigns as Wenzong (1329– 1332). In the confusion, powerful ministers such as Bayan rise to dominance at the Yuan court. September 2, 1332: Wenzong dies. July 1333: Shundi (Toghon Temur to Mongolians), thirteen years old, is enthroned as the tenth (and last) emperor of the Yuan dynasty at Shangdu, the summer capital in Inner Mongolia two hundred miles north of Beijing. 1333: Bayan is named chancellor of the right, the most powerful position in Yuan China. He presides over a bureaucracy of 33,000 officials, around 30 percent of them non-Chinese. A reactionary, Bayan’s expressed goal is to “impose the old regulations.” 1335: Chancellor Bayan sets his reforms in motion, sharply cutting palace expenditures and reducing salt monopoly quotas. He tries to enforce a strict separatism between Mongols and Chinese. Bayan reserves most leading government positions for Mongols and other non-Chinese; he bars Chinese from owning weapons or horses; and he cancels the Confucian examination system. March 1340: A coup removes the deeply unpopular Bayan from office. He dies in April on the journey to his place of banishment in the far south. His successor as chancellor of the right is Toghto. He reverses many of Bayan’s policies, reopens top positions to Chinese candidates and restores the examination system. June 1344: Toghto resigns as chancellor of the right. For the rest of the decade, Yuan’s

Political History

troubles mount: revenue shortages, floods and famine, outbreaks of piracy, and rebellions. October 1344: Zhu Yuanzhang, born into an impoverished tenant farmer family in central Anhui province in 1328, enters a Buddhist monastery as a menial laborer after his parents die in an epidemic. He will rise from these beginnings to found the Ming dynasty. 1345–1347: Zhu Yuanzhang wanders through the Huai River valley as a mendicant monk. August 1349: Emperor Shundi recalls Toghto to the chancellorship. He is greeted as a savior. “Toghto wants to undertake great acts and dazzle the world,” a contemporary said of him. “He wants to surpass the old methods of the ancestors, and leave behind an immortal name in the historical records.” Summer 1351: Popular uprisings break out in region of the Huai River valley and rapidly spread throughout China. One major rebel group, the Red Turbans, grows out of the ardently Buddhist White Lotus Society. Liu Futong rises to prominence as a chief Red Turban leader. April 15, 1352: Zhu Yuanzhang enlists in a Red Turban rebel group. He rises quickly through the ranks to become a trusted adviser of the Red Turban commander. July 10, 1355: Zhu Yuanzhang leads a rebel army across the Yangtze and moves on Nanjing. 1356: Paper money ceases to circulate. Toghto’s inflationary policies have made it worthless: by necessity, he prints during his last years in power vast amounts of paper currency to fund state projects and quell rebellion. April 10, 1356: Zhu Yuanzhang enters Nanjing at the head of a triumphant Red Turban column. Yuan China is well along the way to breaking up into regional powers under warlord control. June 11, 1358: Insurgents under Liu Futong capture Kaifeng.


January 1359: Rebels destroy the Yuan sum-

mer capital at Shangdu. September 10, 1359: Yuan loyalist forces re-

take Kaifeng. 1363: Chinese warlords continue to fight each other for control of the Yangtze valley. When Liu Futong is killed in battle, Zhu Yuanzhang succeeds him as the leading insurgent commander. September 30–October 1, 1363: Zhu’s fleets win a great naval battle on the Yangtze, destroying one of his leading rivals for supremacy in the region and taking fifty thousand captives. 1366: Zhu orders the rebuilding of his stronghold of Nanjing into an imperial capital. December 27, 1366: Zhu’s forces invest fortress of Suchou on the lower Yangtze. October 1, 1367: After a ten-month siege, Zhu’s army enters Suchou, consolidating his control over the middle and lower Yangtze regions. As the last warlord standing after the civil wars of the 1360s, he prepares to lead his army north through Shandong, Henan, and Hebei. November 13, 1367: Zhu orders invasion of the North China plain. He meets little resistance from supporters of Shundi (Toghon Temur), the Mongol/Yuan ruler. January 23, 1368: With an offering of sacrifices to Heaven and Earth, Zhu Yuanzhang is acclaimed first emperor of the Ming dynasty. He then ascends the throne. Ruling as Taizu, the first commoner to reign in China in 1,500 years, he will restore law and order out of the chaos of the Yuan collapse. March–April 1368: Ming forces establish control over Shandong. April 16, 1368: Ming forces occupy Kaifeng. May 1368: Ming army pacifies Henan. August 15, 1368: Ming army marches on Beijing. September 20, 1368: Ming army enters Beijing to find the Yuan court has vanished. 1370: Shundi, the last Yuan emperor, dies in Mongolia.


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M I N G D Y N A S T Y: 1 3 6 8 – 1 6 4 4 The first Ming emperor sets a despotic tone for the dynasty. Zhu Yuanzhang, the commoner rebel leader who seizes the throne and reigns as Taizu, casts a long shadow over the course of Chinese history. Ugly, energetic, paranoid, and despotic, he puts the stamp of capricious violence on the Ming. His limited vision—the aspect of conventional Confucianism that holds that agriculture is the source of the nation’s wealth, and that trade and wealth are parasitic— contributes to China’s loss of leadership in technology. Still, China prospers for much of the 277-year Ming era—the only period from the fall of the Northern Song to the 1911 revolution during which all of the country is free of foreign rule. The population doubles during the course of the dynasty, to around 160 million. Literacy rates rise steadily. Trade revives after the first emperor’s reign, and flourishes during the last century of the dynasty. Foreign trade brings in vast quantities of silver and monetarizes the economy. China’s rich silks and beautiful porcelain are in demand all over the world. There is a high degree of regional economic specialization: The Yangtze delta becomes a center of cotton and silk production; Fujian in the southeast is known for tobacco and sugar cane; neighboring Jiangxi produces the best of China’s porcelain. Literature, philosophy, education, and the arts flourish. The full-length novel, which existed in the earlier Song and Yuan periods, develops during the Ming; examples (both of uncertain authorship) are The Water Margin, an outlaw tale set in the Song period, and The Journey to the West, the story of a Buddhist pilgrimage to India during the Tang dynasty. Drama and belles lettres are vigorous. Ming China has more printed books than all the rest of the world added together. China turns inward during the Ming, with long-term consequences. Just as the Europeans launch their great voyages of exploration and discovery China, obsessed with the security problem of the northern frontier, dismantles its great seagoing fleets. Overseas trade is increasingly restricted by law. The Great Wall as it is today—brick- and stone-faced walls with watchtowers— is a product of the defensive, self-preoccupied Ming era. Its purpose, to keep the Mongols out, is an appropriate symbol for the dynasty, which tries to keep all the world at bay.

1368: The first emperor of the Ming (or “Bril-

liant”) dynasty razes the Yuan palaces of Beijing. Taizu (also commonly known by his “reign” name, Hongwu) retains Nanjing as his capital and orders the construction of a thirty-mile network of walls to enclose the city. Taizu moves at once to implement traditional Confucian policies. He cuts government expenditures steeply. In an effort to make the army pay for itself, he revives the old soldier/farmer system, whereby the troops are expected to produce their own sustenance. He lightens the tax burden on the peasantry and increases it for the com-

mercial and scholarly upper classes. He promotes land reclamation projects and repairs neglected dikes and canals. June 1370: Taizu orders restoration of the civil service recruitment examinations. Summer 1370: Taizu orders distribution of grain in drought-stricken areas of Yellow River valley. 1371: Dissatisfied with the candidates, Taizu overturns the outcome of the recruitment examinations. “We sincerely searched for worthy men,” he complains, “but the empire responded by sending empty phrasemakers.” Taizu suspends the examinations for ten years.

Political History


January 19, 1371: Taizu orders an expedition

1393: A government census puts China’s reg-

against the small surviving Xia state in Sichuan. August 3, 1371: Ming forces reach the Xia capital of Chongqing. Shortly thereafter, Chengdu falls and Sichuan is pacified. 1372: Mongols check Ming expansion north of the Great Wall. 1376: The scholar-official Ye Boju submits a memorial criticizing Taizu for harsh punishments of civil servants for minor offenses. Ye is imprisoned and dies of starvation in prison. 1380: Taizu accuses his chief minister, Hu Weiyong, of conspiring against him. He orders Hu and many of his allies summarily executed and in the purges that follow fifteen thousand are killed. During Taizu’s thirty-year reign, an estimated 100,000 functionaries will perish in Taizu’s purges. With Hu’s death, Taizu abolishes the chief ministers’ offices and establishes six boards—Civil Office, Revenue, Rites, War, Justice, and Works—as the highest level of China’s government, with each department head reporting directly to the emperor. Taizu thus becomes his own prime minister. 1381: Taizu orders the peasantry to organize in registered groups of 110 households, with single rotating households responsible for collecting the community’s taxes and labor services. This is part of Taizu’s effort to cut spending and reduce the imperial bureaucracy. 1381–1382: Ming invades, conquers, and annexes the provinces of Yunnan and Guizhou in southwest China. 1382: Taizu establishes a legion of personal troops known as the Embroidered-uniform Guard. Its strength will grow to 75,000 men. September 1382: Taizu reinstitutes the civil service examination system. May 1388: A 150,000-strong Chinese army crosses the Gobi Desert and routs the Mongols five hundred miles north of Beijing, returning with 80,000 captives and 150,000 head of livestock.

istered population at 60,543,812. This is an undercount, probably by more than 20 million. 1397: The final version of the Great Ming law code is compiled. June 24, 1398: Taizu dies after an illness. Six days later, his sixteen-year-old grandson ascends the throne and rules as Huidi. He softens some of the harsher clauses of the first emperor’s legal code and reduces punitively high taxes in some parts of the empire. “One hundred eight of us, each face differing from the other, yet each face noble in its way; one hundred and eight of us, each with his separate heart, yet each heart pure as a star; in joy we shall be one, in sorrow one; our hour of birth was not one, but we will die together...” When Sunng Chiang had thus vowed, all the host together shouted assent and they said, “We would but meet again, life after life, generation after generation, forever undivided, even as we are this day!” On that day did they all mingle blood with wine and drink it and when they had drunk themselves to mighty drunkenness, they parted.” All Men Are Brothers (or Shui Hu Chuan), probably by Shih Nai-en and Lo Kuan Chung (14th–15th century?)

August 5, 1399: The Prince of Yan, the fourth

son of Taizu (born 1360) rises in rebellion against his nephew Huidi, touching off a three-year civil war. This is in reaction to Huidi’s attacks on Yan’s brothers and after the emperor has made it clear that he intends to remove Yan from his position of authority. 1400: Some 200,000 Chinese military colonists resettle among the indigenous tribes of Yunnan and Guizhou. Mid-January 1400: The Prince of Yan marches from his strongholds around Beijing southwest into Shanxi. May 18, 1400: Yan defeats imperial forces in


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a battle in which 600,000 men are said to be engaged. Summer 1401: Yan raids Grand Canal route supplying the imperial forces. January 1402: Yan marches south toward the imperial capital at Nanjing. July 3, 1402: Yan’s army crosses the Yangtze and approaches Nanjing. July 13, 1402: Nanjing surrenders. Yan claims the emperor and his wife perished in a palace fire; others claim Huidi flees disguised as a Buddhist monk. July 17, 1402: Yan ascends the Ming throne as Chengzu; he is best known by his reign title, Yongle. He carries out purges that claim tens of thousands of the second emperor’s loyalists. Emperor Yongle plans to shift the imperial capital to Beijing and demote Nanjing to the status of a secondary capital. He will mobilize hundreds of thousands of workers to build the Forbidden City—the complex of imperial palaces in the heart of the capital. He reigns until 1424. 1405–1433: The Muslim eunuch Zheng He leads a series of far-ranging overseas expeditions. The first three voyages are to India; the fourth reaches Hormuz on the Persian Gulf; and the last three touch on the coast of East Africa. Diplomacy, exploration, and trade are the purposes of the voyages. China evidently is seeking allies, along with smaller states it can draw into a tributary relationship. The maritime exploits of Zheng He are not repeated. In fact, the Chinese fail altogether to consolidate the technical gains achieved in long-distance voyages across the open ocean. 1406: China dispatches an army to Annam (northern Vietnam) to prop up the weak Tran dynasty there. November 19, 1406: A Chinese punitive expedition captures major towns in Annam’s Red River Delta. June 16, 1407: Chinese forces capture Annamite leaders and take them in triumph to

Nanjing. Rebellions against the occupying Chinese break out at once, however, and the fighting drags on year after year. 1408: Construction of a new palace complex, eventually to be known as the Forbidden City, begins at Beijing. 1410–1424: China carries out five campaigns to disperse the Mongol tribes raiding the northern frontier. In the first campaign, Yongle leads an army of 300,000 from Beijing north to Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia. October 28, 1420: Beijing is formally designated China’s principal capital. The completed Forbidden City is a vast and dignified complex of audience halls, courtyards, palaces, pavilions, and ornamental lakes. 1422–1424: Ming forces undertake renewed campaigns against the steppe tribes of the north. August 12, 1424: Yongle dies of an illness during the fifth and last of the Mongol campaigns, which thus end inconclusively. September 7, 1424: Yongle’s son ascends the throne. His temple name is Renzong, but he is known—as are his successors—to history more familiarly by his reign name, Hongxi. May 29, 1425: The Hongxi emperor dies at age forty-seven. The official cause is a heart ailment. June 27, 1425: Xuande succeeds his father as Ming emperor. 1427: China gives up its twenty-year effort to subdue Annam and withdraws. Annam agrees to nominal status as a tributary in return for China’s recognition of its independence. 1428: The Xuande emperor compiles a guide to emperorship, based on Confucian principles, titled Imperial Injunctions. 1443–1445: Oirat Mongol tribes establish effective control of the Chinese frontier zone from Manchuria in the east to Hami at the foot of the Altai Mountains in the west. January 31, 1435: Xuande dies of natural causes. His son, only eight years old, ascends the throne as Zhengtong. His reign sees the

Political History

rise of eunuchs to positions of great power and influence. 1447: Silver miners in Zhejiang province revolt. Government forces finally quell the outbreak in August 1479. March 1448: Tenant farmers along the FujianJiangxi border rise in rebellion. February 1449: Government forces capture Fujian peasant leaders, transport them to Beijing, and execute them. Sporadic fighting continues until 1452. July 1449: Mongols under Esen launch a large-scale invasion of China. The emperor decides personally to lead a hastily assembled Chinese army estimated at 500,000. September 1, 1449: Mongols defeat the Chinese at Tumu and take the Emperor Zhengtong captive. September 15–23, 1449: Rather than ransom Zhengtong, the Ming court decides to enthrone a new emperor and defend Beijing. He is Jingtai, a half-brother of Yingzong. The lone courtier who protests is instantly put to death. October–November 1449: Beijing withstands a brief siege before the Mongol army withdraws beyond the frontier, pillaging as it goes. Early 1457: The captive emperor wins release from the Mongols and in a coup is restored to his throne. He reigns as Tianshun. March 14, 1457: Jingtai, demoted to prince, dies, possibly by the hand of the palace eunuchs. 1464: Miao and Yao tribes rebel. From its origin in Guangxi province, the rebellion quickly spreads into Hunan, Guizhou, Jiangxi, and the rich urban centers of Guangdong. February 23, 1464: Chenghua ascends the throne. He proves to be a dissolute man. His rule will be marked by a gradually worsening financial situation as tax revenues decline, and by further growth in the eunuch bureaucracy. Late summer 1465: A Ming punitive expedition 200,000 strong takes the field and pac-


ifies the Miao and Yao in a bloody campaign. December 1465–January 1466: Imperial forces attack the main rebel strongholds in Big Rattan Gorge. The Yao leader and eight hundred of his followers are captured, transported to Beijing, and beheaded. 1465–1476: The Qing-Xiang uprising in the refugee wasteland of the Middle Yangtze region drags on for years. Imperial forces record initial successes, but the rebellion flares anew as famine and epidemic increase the flood of refugees. Enlightened officials finally urge a social solution to the unrest, and the region grows quiet after 1476. The great man regards Heaven and earth and the myriad things as one body. He regards the world as one family and the country as one person. As to those who make a cleavage between objects and distinguish between the self and others, they are small men. Inquiry on the Neo-Confucian Great Learning, by Wang Yangming (1472–1529)

1472–1529: Lifespan of the scholar-official

Wang Yangming (also known as Wang Shouren). His new form of Neoconfucian thought is widely influential—and controversial—in Ming China. He stresses the relative ease of tapping the moral principle he believes is inside everyone. His teachings provoke an outbreak of factionalism in the Ming civil service. His chief challenge to traditional Confucianism, as handed down in the works of the Song thinker Zhu Xi (1130– 1200), is his rejection of the notion that moral principle and universal patterns may be understood only through careful and rational study and inquiry. Wang argues that everyone has intuitive knowledge of universal principles. Once the distorting effect of material desires is contained, buried knowledge of good rises to the surface. In practical terms, Wang is a capable government official, often immersed in day-to-


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day affairs. He is a vigorous promoter of the Community Compact—an old idea, refurbished during the Ming, in which villages take the lead in moral renewal. This is meant to arrest the deterioration of community spirit that many scholar-officials lament. 1474: Further extension begins on what is familiarly known today as the Great Wall of China. It is a wonder of the world, but is only modestly effective as a defensive bar against invasion from the north. 1475–1476: The Miao tribe again rises in revolt. Imperial forces crush it, killing thousands. 1485: Some ten thousand eunuchs are said to be in the imperial service. September 9, 1487: The Chenghua emperor dies. His son ascends the throne as Hongzhi eight days later. June 19, 1505: Zhengdi ascends the Ming throne. A drunkard, he appears little interested in matters of state and his rule is torpid. October 1511: Bandits burn a thousand imperial grain barges on the Grand Canal. February 10, 1514: During a lantern festival in the Forbidden City, an open flame reaches gunpowder stores and touches off an explosion. The resulting fire destroys the residential palaces. Thirty thousand troops are mobilized to rebuild the palaces. 1517: First Portuguese ships reach the Pearl River estuary below Guangzhou (Canton). January 1521: The Portuguese ambassador arrives in Beijing with the first European embassy to reach the imperial court. He finds the emperor ill, however, and fails to obtain an audience. April 19, 1521: Zhengdi dies. A young cousin succeeds him, ascending the Ming throne on May 27 with the reign name of Jiajing. He will rule to 1567. The eleventh emperor sets up Daoist altars in his palace and obsessively prays for good fortune and a long life. He becomes addicted to Daoist aphrodisiac and fertility potions and is said to rely on divination to determine state policies. He relies heavily on the powerful and corrupt Yan

Zhu, who is his prime minister for twenty years. Recurrent revenue crises mark the reign, leaving the court and bureaucracy chronically short of resources. 1522: The “single whip” tax reform is in effect in various localities. In an effort to stimulate government revenue, it simplifies tax rates and categories of payment, often combining separate levies on a single bill, to be paid in silver. 1524: Hundreds of scholars protest at the palace gates in Beijing; the emperor orders them beaten and 134 imprisoned. Sixteen scholars die of the beatings. July–August 1542: The Mongol leader Altan Khan launches raids into Shanxi. He captures or kills 200,000 Chinese in his path, seizes a million head of livestock, and burns thousands of dwellings. July–November 1547: A government agency reports that piracy is out of control along China’s southeast coast, especially in Zhejiang and Fujian provinces. The official charged with suppressing piracy recommends strict enforcement of the ban against overseas trading. January 1550: Local officials in Zhejiang petition the court to ease the ban on foreign trading. October 1, 1550: Altan Khan lays siege to Beijing and loots the suburbs, but withdraws without capturing the city. “We shall have to see about giving you a schoolname,” said the Patriarch. “We have twelve words that we use in these names, according to the grade of the pupil. You are in the tenth grade.” “What are the twelve words,” asked Monkey. “They are Wide, Big, Wise, Clever, True, Conforming, Nature, Ocean, Lively, Aware, Perfect, and Illuminated. As you belong to the tenth grade, the word Aware must come in your name. How about ‘Aware of Vacuity’?” “Splendid!” said Monkey, laughing. “From now on, let me be called ‘Aware of Vacuity.’” Journey to the West (or Monkey) by Wu Ch’eng-en (c. 1500–1580)

Political History


April 1551: Mongols agree to cease frontier

1581: Ming government again reforms tax sys-

raiding in return for a guarantee of two fairs a year at which they can trade horses for tea and other goods. Six months later, when China refuses a request to trade cattle for beans and grain, the Mongols resume raiding. 1553: The Outer City is built on a site to the south of the Imperial City of Beijing. Early 1555: Pirates attack the rich Hangzhou region and kill thousands in the city’s environs. The government launches a new offensive to suppress piracy and over the next four years gradually restores control over the southeast coast. May 1557: Fire destroys audience halls and southern ceremonial gates at the Forbidden City in Beijing. March 1560: The Nanjing garrison revolts in protest of cuts in the troops’ ration allowances. Rampaging soldiers kill the vice minister for revenue, hang his naked body from an arch, and use it for target practice. Fearing further trouble, the government allows the garrison to go unpunished. 1567: The Ming government repeals the ban on maritime trade. Portugal is permitted to establish a trading center at Macau on the south coast. January 23, 1567: The Jiajing emperor dies. The reign of his successor, Longqing (to 1572), will be brief and colorless. 1570: China negotiates a peace treaty with the powerful Mongol raider Altan Khan, ending the incessant raiding along the northern frontier. 1573–1620: The Wanli emperor reigns. During the first years of his era, capable ministers restore the empire’s finances. Later, there is deadlock between the emperor and the bureaucracy. The estimated seventy thousand eunuchs in imperial service exert great influence. Infighting among the eunuchs and the professional civil service so disgusts Wanli that he stages a sort of work stoppage: for years he refuses to see his ministers or make necessary appointments, meanwhile building up his personal fortune.

tem, decreeing a single tax for all levies, to be paid in silver. 1583: Nurhaci, born in 1552, becomes great chieftain of the fisher/hunter/farmer tribes of Jurchen stock that inhabit the hills and forests of central Manchuria (present Heilongjiang and Jilin provinces). Nurhaci organizes the entire population in military units known as banners, for the colored pennants that identify the subdivisions. He will eventually mass eight banners, as well as eight banners each of Chinese and Mongol subjects. Over a period of three decades, Nurhaci builds a powerful state on the Chinese model. After 1635 his people will be known as the Manchus. 1587: The Buddhist White Lotus sect stages an uprising in Shandong. May 1592: Japan invades Korea with a 150,000-strong army. China mobilizes to repel the Japanese. January 1593: A Chinese expeditionary force crosses the Yalu River. The Japanese rout the Chinese army north of Seoul and an armed truce follows. 1597–1598: Chinese and Japanese forces in Korea resume hostilities. Muskets are used extensively in these affrays, with the Japanese equipped with matchlock firearms they copy from the Portuguese. After heavy fighting with thousands of casualties, the war ends in a stalemate. c. 1600: After decades of steady growth, China’s population is an estimated 150 million. 1600: More than 700,000 Chinese colonists are settled in Yunnan and Guizhou. October 1603: Spanish forces massacre twenty thousand Chinese colonists on Luzon in the Philippines. 1604: The Donglin Academy near Wuxi in Jiangsu province is rebuilt. Donglin becomes a center for disaffected scholar-officials troubled by the direction of the Ming. They call for a return to Zhu Xi’s orthodox Confucian values unalloyed with the Bud-


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dhist elements Wang Yangming and his followers are accused of introducing. 1604: The emperor fully withdraws from affairs of state. The Ministry of Personnel reports that half the empire’s magistracies are vacant, as are many other offices. 1610: With the treasury depleted by military campaigns and the heavy burden of stipends to more than twenty thousand imperial clansmen, the Ming faces bankruptcy. 1616: Nurhaci proclaims himself khan of the Later Jin—an obvious allusion to the Jurchen enemy of Song and the forerunner of the Manchu dynasty. The Later Jin succeeds the Mongols of the steppes as the preeminent threat to China’s security. All men in the areas he conquers are forced as a sign of submission to adopt the Manchu hairstyle—a shaved forehead with the rest of the hair braided in a long plait. March 26, 1619: Ming launches a punitive campaign against Nurhaci’s Later Jin. It is a disaster. Within a few weeks, the Manchus win a series of battles and threaten Beijing. April 1620: Government raises land taxes for a third time since the outbreak of war in the northeast two years earlier. August 18, 1620: The Wanli emperor dies, ending a forty-eight-year reign. Taichang ascends the throne. September 1620: The new emperor falls ill. On September 25 he takes a large dose of a dubious medication called red pill. He dies the next day. October 1, 1620: Tianqi ascends as the fifteenth emperor of the Ming. He is portrayed as weak, ill-educated, and stupid, though he is said to excel at carpentry. His reign is regarded as a disaster, largely on account of his reliance on the corrupt eunuch Wei Zhongxian. The economy stagnates, and military setbacks mount. 1621: Manchus take Shenyang (Mukden) in southeastern Manchuria. 1622: Chinese subjects in Manchu-ruled Liaodong rise in rebellion. It is savagely crushed.

June 1622: White Lotus Buddhists revolt in

Shandong. They block the Grand Canal, capture fifty imperial grain barges, and temporarily cut off supplies to Beijing and the Ming forces fighting in the northeast. 1624–1627: Wei Zhongxian responds to accusations of corruption from Donglin reformers with a savage crackdown; many Donglin leaders are arrested, tortured, and executed or driven to suicide, and hundreds of others are driven from public office. 1625: Chinese again rise in Liaodong. Manchu rulers suppress the rebellion by executing literati suspected of stirring unrest, and by strictly separating Manchus and Chinese. 1625: Nurhaci makes Shenyang the Manchu capital. Spring 1626: Ming forces repulse a Later Jin offensive; Nurhaci dies of wounds; his eighth son Hong Taiji (1592–1643) succeeds him. 1626–1643: Hong Taiji rules as chieftain of the Manchus. He extends Chinese institutions and brings in Chinese to staff his bureaucracy. September 30, 1627: The Tianqi emperor dies. His younger brother succeeds him on October 2 and reigns as Chongzhen, the last emperor of the Ming dynasty. October 1627: The powerful eunuch Wei Zhongxian is demoted and given a minor job in the provinces. In December, fearing arrest, Wei hangs himself. 1627–1628: Severe famine causes widespread hardship in northern Shaanxi. The famine is an outgrowth of a “little ice age” that chills much of China during the first decades of the seventeenth century. Army deserters and others form gangs that ravage the Shaanxi countryside before moving on to Shanxi, Hebei, Henan, and Anhui provinces. Government seems powerless to crush the bandit gangs. December 1629: Manchu forces pierce the Great Wall defenses and threaten Beijing. January 14, 1630: Manchu invaders defeat Ming army only thirty miles from Beijing.

Political History

The invaders withdraw without attacking the capital, though they take and loot several important towns on their return north. 1630–1638: Peasant uprisings spread through China’s heartland, rising and falling according to the Ming response. Rebels extend their operations from Shaanxi northeast into Shanxi, east into Henan, southwest into Sichuan, and southeast as far as Jiangxi. 1636: The insurgent leader Li Zicheng (1606–1645) is paramount in North China; bandit chieftain Zhang Xianzhong (1605– 1647) controls much of the area between the Yellow and Yangtze rivers. Both rebel leaders are Ming army deserters. 1636: Hong Taiji of the Later Jin proclaims a new dynasty, the Qing (“pure”) and takes the title of emperor. 1638: The Manchus of the Qing subdue Korea. 1642: Rebels cut Yellow River dikes; several hundred thousand people perish in flooding and subsequent famine. April 1642: Ming defenses along the Great Wall virtually collapse under Manchu pres-


sure. Manchu columns press their offensive in northeast China, claiming 360,000 prisoners and vast caches of spoils. May–October 1642: Li Zicheng besieges Kaifeng. Several hundred thousand die in the city, many from starvation and disease. 1643: Zhang Xianzhong declares himself Emperor of the Great West in Chengdu in Sichuan. Summer 1643: Li Zicheng prepares to move on Beijing. Autumn 1643: Hong Taiji dies; his third son Fulin ascends the throne and will rule as the Emperor Shizu. Early 1644: Li Zicheng declares himself King of the Great Shun. April 25, 1644: The last Ming emperor hangs himself in the Imperial Hat and Girdle Pavilion in the Forbidden City palace compound. Li Zicheng’s forces enter later in the day and find the emperor’s corpse. June 4, 1644: Li Zicheng abandons Beijing as the Manchus approach. June 5, 1644: The Manchu prince Dorgon enters Beijing, marking the beginning of Manchu rule in China.

Q I N G D Y N A S T Y: 1 6 4 4 – 1 9 1 2 The Qing dynasty rules from 1644, but nearly a generation passes before the Manchu conquerors destroy the last of the Ming pretenders and consolidate their rule over all of China. The Manchus extend their reach with the aid of Chinese collaborators and with the tacit acceptance of most of China’s people. The required act of submission for men—the Manchu-style tonsure with the pleated braid— is humiliating, but there are compensations. The Manchus promise to preserve China’s traditional beliefs and social structures. They make use of Confucian rituals and precedence. They rule in the Chinese manner, with a sort of dual Manchu-Chinese bureaucracy. By restoring and maintaining order in the countryside, they win over the powerful Chinese gentry. The first 150 years of the Qing form a long era of stability. China expands to its present boundaries, annexing Taiwan, Chinese Turkestan, and Mongolia and claiming suzerainty over Tibet. Three capable, hard-working emperors rule for a span of more than 130 years. The first confirms Manchu rule and courts the literati and landowning gentry. The second reforms the tax system. The third, one of the most cultured of emperors, reigning for nearly sixty years, presides over what many scholars regard as the high point of traditional Chinese civilization. By the late eighteenth century, the golden era is fast fading and the Qing’s developing weaknesses are increasingly exposed to view. Qing institutions become weak and ineffective.


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Factionalism and corruption spread through the bureaucracy. The army is undisciplined and sometimes incompetent. Granaries are empty and famine relief inadequate. The Grand Canal silts up. The West has caught and overtaken China in power, prosperity and technological resourcefulness. In country districts, the pressure of a rapidly rising population brings social disturbances. Deforestation and erosion cause environmental damage. With labor surpluses everywhere, wages are depressed. The Qing state either ignores or denies its problems. The explosion of the Taiping Rebellion and two concurrent insurgencies in the mid-nineteenth century nearly destroy the Qing. Some 20 million Chinese perish in the Taiping outbreak. In the last decades of the century, the Qing tries to adapt western technology and economic practices to China’s needs: railroads, telegraphs, steamships, heavy industry, specialized schools. At the same time, the encroachments of the foreign powers, especially the British, the French and the Japanese, further undermine the Qing, which seems increasingly unable to defend itself. By 1900, despite the material gains of the Self-strengthening Movement that seeks to modernize China, the dynasty barely breathes. China is a pathetic figure, its venerable institutions incapable of confronting the challenges of modern life. Diplomacy and force impel China to grant long-term territorial leases to foreign powers. Foreign missionaries have free run of the country. Foreign businesses are allowed to open factories on China’s soil. External pressures and internal rebellion bring about a final collapse. There is no clear successor to the fallen dynasty. A long and disturbed interregnum will follow the Qing: warlord rule, ideological conflict, intellectual ferment, a devastating world war, civil war, and revolution. June 6, 1644: A son of Hong Taiji is en-

May 1645: After a short siege, the Manchus

throned in the Forbidden City as boy emperor of the Qing; he ascends as Shunzhi, with Prince Dorgon as regent. Over the following months, the new rulers chase the eunuchs from the court, establish day-to-day governmental authority, confiscate vast areas of North China farmland to support their armies, and order Chinese men to cut their forelocks and start a queue. Summer 1644: The Prince of Fu, a grandson of the Ming Emperor Wanli, is enthroned as emperor. He and his supporters move to rally resistance to the conquerors. December 1644: The rebel leader Zhang Xianzhong proclaims a new “Great Western Kingdom” in Sichuan and rules from Chengdu. Early 1645: Manchu forces advance southward down the line of the Grand Canal. Spring 1645: Manchu forces pursue Li Zicheng’s Great Shun Army into the mountains of frontier Jiangxi; Li dies (or is murdered) there over the summer.

take the rich commercial city of Yangzhou. In a ten-day rampage, they sack it thoroughly. June 1645: Offering scant resistance, Nanjing surrenders to the Manchus. The Prince of Fu is captured and taken north to Beijing, where he dies the next year. July 1645: Manchus declare any Chinese man who fails to cut his hair and start a queue within ten days will be executed. “Keep your hair and lose your head,” the Chinese say, “or lose your hair and keep your head.” 1646: Manchus restore national civil service examination system. As in the Ming, the system is built on memorization and analysis of orthodox Confucian texts and on a few approved commentaries (namely Zhu Xi’s) on the canon. January 1647: After withdrawing from Chengdu, which he leaves in ashes, Zhang Xianzhong is tracked and killed by Manchu forces.

Political History January 20, 1647: Guangzhou (Canton) falls

to the Manchus. Two Ming pretenders are presently caught and publicly executed in the city. 1648: Chinese troops make up three-quarters of the Manchu banner military formations. The Mongols form 8 percent of the total, the Manchus 16 percent. 1648: An uprising evicts the Manchus from Guangzhou. When Qing forces retake the city in 1650, they carry out a great massacre of the Ming defenders. 1650: With the death of the regent Dorgon, Emperor Shunzhi (born 1638) asserts his authority and rules in his own right. He studies the Chinese language and becomes an admirer of Chinese high culture. He also forms a close friendship with the Jesuit missionary Johann Schall von Bell; he appoints Schall von Bell to head the Imperial Bureau of Astronomy, a key post that oversees the calendar, always a matter of great interest to China’s emperors. 1653–1659: The last known surviving grandson of the Wanli emperor, the Prince of Gui (1623–1662), is the last Ming claimant. From his base in the south, he retreats steadily westward, from Guangxi to Guizhou, Yunnan, and finally Burma. 1659: The pirate and trader Zheng Chenggong, known to the West as Koxinga, attacks Manchu Nanjing but is repulsed. When Qing forces pursue him to his stronghold of Xiamen (Amoy), he crosses the Strait of Formosa and attacks the Dutch on Taiwan. March 1659: Remnants of the Prince of Gui’s court and army cross the frontier into Burma. 1660s: Manchu consolidation involves indirect control of South China, which is left to the semiautonomous rule of the so-called Three Feudatories. They are Wu Sangui, Shang Kexi, and Geng Gimao, the three Chinese commanders who subdued most of the region for the Qing in the 1650s. Wu rules Yunnan, Guizhou, and parts of Hunan and Sichuan; Shang controls Guangdong


and part of Guangxi; and Geng governs Fujian. 1661: Shunzhi dies, probably of smallpox. His son, eight years old, will succeed him as the Kangxi emperor. December 1661: Wu Sangui leads Qing expeditionary force into Burma to track down the last Ming claimant. February 1662: The Dutch on Taiwan surrender to Zheng Chenggong (Koxinga). He dies later in the year, but his successors build a powerful trading empire on the island. Over the next two decades 100,000 Chinese resettle in Taiwan. January 1662: Burmese hand over the Prince of Gui and his entourage to Wu Sangui. May 1662: The Prince of Gui and his teenage son are executed in Yunnan. 1669: Kangxi ascends as second emperor of the Qing. Only fifteen, he will rule until 1722. Kangxi is a patron of the Chinese literati. He is much interested in the Jesuits, especially for their knowledge of western science. December 1673: The Chinese general Wu Sangui, who allied with the Manchus in their invasion of North China, leads a rebellion against the Qing. Two other socalled feudatories will follow him in rebellion. Wu proclaims a new dynasty, the Zhou, and advances northeast into Hunan. 1674: Gen Jingzhong, who succeeds his father as strongman of Fujian, rebels and leads his army northward into Zhejiang. He surrenders independently to the Qing two years later and is put to death. 1676: The third of the feudatories, Shang Zhixin (son of Shang Kexi), revolts. He marches north into Jiangxi but quickly collapses in the face of a Qing counterattack. Shang surrenders in 1677 and is executed. 1678: Wu declares himself emperor of the Zhou. He dies of dysentery later in the year, at the age of sixty-six. Qing loyalists gain momentum and push his supporters steadily westward. Late 1670s: Powerful Zunghar Western Mon-


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gol tribes seize Kashgar, Hami, and Turfan in today’s Outer Mongolia and Qinghai along the Tibetan frontier. c. 1680: After decades of civil war, banditry, general unrest, famine, and other natural disasters, China’s population is perhaps 100 million, a decrease of 50 million or more from the estimated population at the beginning of the century. 1681: Zhou resistance collapses in Yunnan; many Zhou leaders are executed. Emperor Kangxi punishes the leading rebels mercilessly, but he shows compassion for ordinary people caught up in events. With the end of the feudatories’ rebellion, Qing confirms control over all of China. July 1683: A Qing naval expedition of three hundred warships destroys Koxinga’s forces in the Pescadores. Taiwan itself falls to the Qing in October and is absorbed into the empire. 1689: After a series of border clashes, Chinese and Russian envoys reach a border agreement. The Treaty of Nerchinsk will hold— today’s frontier essentially follows the line fixed then. 1696: A Qing army under Emperor Kangxi defeats the Zunghars at Jao Modo beyond the Gobi Desert northwest of Beijing. 1712: The Kangxi emperor issues an edict freezing China’s land tax. This effort to encourage land registration and accurate population counts has the longer-term effect of keeping the empire’s tax revenues depressed. 1717: Zunghar Mongols invade Tibet. Qing responds with a counterinvasion of the mountain kingdom. Autumn 1720: Chinese armies occupy Lhasa in Tibet, install a new Dalai Lama loyal to the Qing, and establish a permanent garrison there. December 1722: Kangxi dies of old age in his Beijing palace. His son Yongzheng, fortyfive, ascends. He is a hard worker, a devoted Buddhist, and an adherent of conservative Confucian values. 1729: Yongzheng establishes a secret office of

finance to deal with important issues of state. Made up of a small group of senior officials and their secretaries, it is known to Europeans as the Grand Council. 1736–1795: Qianlong, the fourth son of Yongzheng, ascends at age twenty-five as the fourth emperor of the Qing. His is the longest reign in China’s history, and an era of sustained population growth and general prosperity. China’s territorial extent doubles. Qianlong is a cultured ruler. He increases the holdings of the imperial galleries; he patronizes Jesuit painters at court; he writes and publishes some 42,000 poems. Employing European architects and painters, he will build a magnificent summer palace, the Yuan Ming Yuan, on a lake on the outskirts of Beijing. Trouble will come, however. Signs of decay are becoming apparent. Population growth puts increasing pressure on the land. Conflict with the Europeans looms. For all the glory of his reign, Qianlong postpones making hard or unpopular decisions, is perhaps incapable of making them. 1750s: Qing absorbs Muslim region of modern Xinjiang province. 1751–1784: Qianlong takes six expensive tours in the southern domains. He is said to spend more than 20 million ounces of silver during his peregrinations of 1751, 1757, 1762, 1765, 1780, and 1784. 1759: Qing forces under the Manchu bannerman Zhaohui capture Kashgar and Yarkand on the far western frontier and carry out a great slaughter of surviving Zunghar defenders. The Manchus do not permit Chinese colonization of the region, however, and they exempt Muslim men from shaving their heads and growing queues. 1774: A herbal healer named Wang Lun leads a White Lotus-inspired outbreak in Shandong. His insurgents take several towns before powerful Qing forces smother the rebellion. 1786: Triad secret societies lead uprising in Taiwan. The Triads, bandits and racketeers

Political History

with an anti-Manchu political message, soon will spread to mainland South China. December 1788: A Chinese army, campaigning in Vietnam to intervene in a dynastic conflict, enters Hanoi in triumph. January 1789: Vietnamese counterattack drives Chinese forces back over the frontier into Guangxi. This will be the last Chinese military campaign in Vietnam until the 1970s. 1790s: The scholar-official Hong Lianji prepares a series of essays that critically consider China’s problems, especially population growth that is fast outrunning production capacity.

Truth becomes fiction when the fiction’s true. The Dream of the Red Chamber (Hung Lou Meng), by Cao Xueqin (1792)

1792: Qing forces defeat invading Nepalese

Gurkhas in Tibet. Nepal agrees to send tribute to Beijing every five years. The tribute payments will continue until 1908. June 1793: The British Lord George Macartney’s trade mission reaches Canton. His flotilla, a sixty-six-gun warship with two escorting vessels, receives permission to sail north to Tianjin, the port of entry for Beijing. September 1793: Lord Macartney petitions the Qing court for regular (that is to say European-style) relations between the two countries. He asks for the lifting of trade restrictions and for a British resident in Beijing. Macartney is denied an audience at first, for he refuses to perform the submissive bow known as the kowtow. When they meet finally, Qianlong rebuffs him. The emperor shows no outward interest even in the products of English industry offered him as gifts: scientific instruments, knives, and woolen goods. “I set no value on objects strange or ingenious, and have no use for your country’s manufactures,” Qianlong says.


The Empire of China is an old, crazy first rate man-of-war, which a fortunate succession of able and vigilant officers has contrived to keep afloat for these one hundred and fifty years past, and to overawe their neighbors merely by her bulk and appearance. An Embassy to China, journal of Lord George Macartney (c. 1793)

1796–1805: Millenarian White Lotus rebel-

lions enflame Hubei, Sichuan, and Shaanxi provinces. By 1805, Qing punitive campaigns reduce the White Lotus army, once 100,000-strong, to scattered remnants. 1799: Qianlong dies. His favorite, the corrupt and powerful Heshen who dominates court life for the last twenty years of the reign, is arrested and forced to commit suicide. 1799–1820: Jiaqing reigns. He attacks corruption, cuts government expenses, and attempts administrative reforms. His era sees a temporary lessening of tensions with the west, as Europe is caught up in the Napoleonic Wars. 1800: China’s population, rising phenomenally, passes 300 million. The lower Yangtze provinces are the most seriously overcrowded. The population of England reaches 11 million. Needing cash to buy Chinese tea, the British East India Company steps up its exports of opium into the country, leading the Qing government to ban the import and domestic production of the addictive drug. 1813: Qing outlaws the smoking of opium. An estimated 100,000 followers of the millenarian Buddhist Eight Trigrams cult rise near Beijing and capture several towns. A rebel force reaches one of the gates of Beijing before being repulsed. The outbreak claims seventy thousand lives before it is quelled. 1816: The British Lord Amherst (William Pitt) leads a trade and diplomatic mission to Beijing. He barely reaches the capital before


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he is turned away and humiliatingly expelled from the country. 1821–1850: Daoguang (born 1782) reigns as Qing emperor. 1826: Qing establishes a coastal patrol to cut down on opium smuggling. It soon becomes apparent that Qing naval officers will allow the trade to continue if adequately bribed. 1827: The scholar He Changling publishes his compendium of documents and commentary on Qing statecraft. This wide-ranging work considers the bureaucracy, taxes, banditry, famine relief, flood control, religion, and other matters. 1836: The emperor calls for suppression of the British-controlled opium trade. June 15, 1836: British government appoints Charles Elliot, a former naval officer, trade commissioner for China. January 1837: Initial results of the opium crackdown are encouraging. Officials in Guangzhou report two thousand dealers in arrest and the trade at a temporary standstill. But British traders vigorously resist efforts to shut down the fabulously profitable business. July 10, 1838: In a memorial to the Qing court, scholar-official Lin Zexu proposes harsher punishments for opium smokers, but also a network of state sanitariums to treat addicts. At the same time, he advises a renewed crackdown on opium traders. January–October 1839: The British opium merchant William Jardine lobbies in London for British government protection of the Guangzhou merchants. He seeks a blockade of China’s ports, a new commercial treaty and the opening of new ports to western trade. March 18, 1839: Lin Zexu is appointed imperial commissioner for suppression of the opium trade. Lin Zexu gives the Cohong merchants of Guangzhou, complicit with the British in the opium trade, three days to persuade foreign traders to hand over their opium stocks. Western houses agree to a to-

ken surrender of one thousand chests. Exasperated, Lin writes to British Queen Victoria: “Suppose there were people from another country who carried opium for sale to England and seduced your people into buying and smoking it; certainly your honourable ruler would deeply hate it and be bitterly aroused.” (Opium is not illegal in Britain at this period and is widely used in the form of laudanum.) March 24, 1839: When the foreign merchants refuse to hand over leading British opium dealer Lancelot Dent, Lin Zexu orders a halt to all foreign trade in Guangzhou. His troops blockade some 350 foreigners in their Guangzhou factories. March 27, 1839: Charles Elliot, the British commissioner, orders the merchants to surrender their opium stocks, an estimated $9 million worth. Mid-May 1839: Lin Zexu’s crackdown nets 1,600 arrests and 35,000 pounds of opium. He eventually confiscates and destroys nearly 3 million pounds of raw opium. July 4, 1839: Fearing arrest, the entire British community in Guangzhou is resettled in Portuguese Macau. Over the summer, Elliot sends pleas to London for assistance in the dispute. August 24, 1839: Under Chinese pressure, Portuguese oust British merchants from Macau. They establish an outpost on sparsely peopled Hong Kong Island. September 4, 1839: British warships destroy Chinese naval squadron at Kowloon. “Assemble yourselves,” runs a Chinese proclamation. “Purchase arms and weapons; join together the stoutest of your villagers and thus be prepared to defend yourselves.” November 4, 1839: British warships fire on Chinese war junks in the Bogue (the mouth of the Pearl River at Guangzhou; Bogue is an English corruption of the Portuguese boca tigre, or tiger’s mouth), sinking four and scattering the rest. 1840s: Triad secret society networks spread among the peasantry of the Pearl River delta

Political History

of Guangdong and in the hills to the south. Large Triad bands attack South China cities; Guangzhou (Canton) is briefly threatened. February 20, 1840: The British government names Admiral George Elliot (Charles Elliot’s cousin) to command the naval task force sailing for China. June 21, 1840: British expeditionary force of sixteen warships with 540 guns and four thousand troops in twenty-eight transports assembles off Macau. Admiral Elliot leaves four ships to blockade Guangzhou and takes the rest of the fleet north. July 5, 1840: British bombard Zhoushan, occupy the port, and blockade nearby Ningbo on mainland Zhejiang. August 30, 1840: With the British fleet standing off the Dagu forts guarding Tianjin, the Chinese are forced to negotiate. January 20, 1841: The Chinese envoy Qishan and British negotiators reach agreement that gives Britain the island of Hong Kong; China agrees to pay the cost of the British expedition (six million Mexican silver dollars) and permit direct British-Chinese contacts. Both sides repudiate the tentative agreement; the Daoguang emperor is so displeased with it he orders Qishan executed. August 10, 1841: A new British plenipotentiary, Sir Henry Pottinger, reaches Hong Kong. June–July 1842: With reinforcements from India, British forces capture Shanghai and Zhenjiang, blocking commercial traffic on the lower Yangtze and the Grand Canal. August 5, 1842: A British expeditionary force pushes up to the walls of Nanjing. Six days later, China again sues for peace. August 29, 1842: The Treaty of Nanking (Nanjing) is signed aboard HMS Cornwallis at anchor in the Yangtze. It awards a further indemnity of 21 million ounces of silver, opens five treaty ports (Guangzhou, Xiamen, Fuzhou, Ningbo, and Shanghai), fixes a five percent tariff on imports, decrees that British subjects answer only to British law, even in disputes with Chinese, and gives


Hong Kong to Britain. The treaty is a great humiliation for China, long used to making its own decisions about the status of foreigners in the country. It sets the tone for a series of unequal treaties between China and the European powers later in the century. Daoguang accepts the treaty in September; Britain’s Queen Victoria approves it in December. Spring 1844: American and Chinese diplomats negotiate the Treaty of Wanghia, which gives the United States similar rights to Britain in China. Among other things, it opens new opportunities for American Protestant missionaries. October 1844: France negotiates a commercial treaty with China along the lines of the British and American agreements. 1850: China’s population reaches 425 million. Thus all the people in the empire may together enjoy the abundant happiness of the heavenly father, Supreme Lord and great God. There being fields, let all cultivate them; there being food, let all eat; there being clothes, let all be dressed; there being money, let all use it, so that nowhere does inequality exist, and no man is not well fed and clothed. The Taiping Manifesto (1850–1864)

1850–1864: The Taiping Rebellion, the great-

est peasant revolt of the 19th century, sweeps China. Its leader is the charismatic Hong Xiuquan (born 1814), a Hakka (an ethnic Chinese minority of southeast China) and failed examination candidate who has come to believe he is the younger brother of Jesus. From his base in Guangxi, Hong orders his paramilitary followers to destroy temples and idols, give up alcohol and opium, and end the custom of footbinding women. December 1850: Hong Xiuquan’s militia defeats a government punitive column at Thistle Mountain. 1851–1861: Xianfeng reigns as Qing emperor.


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1851: Nian rebels rise in east central China

north of the Huai River. Unlike Hong Xiuquan’s rebels to the south, the Nian have no direct religious affiliation or political program. Most are poor peasants, landless single men. January 11, 1851: Hong Xiuquan declares himself king of the Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace. His insurgent forces advance east and north, picking up adherents and weapons along the way. July–December 1852: The Qing loyalist Zeng Guofan (1811–1872) organizes a local force, to be known as the Xiang Army, to defend his Hunan estates from the Taipings. He will become the most effective imperial commander in the rebellion. September 1852: Taiping rebels take Changsha in Hunan. December 1852: A Taiping army seizes Yuezhou on Dongting Lake and captures a large stockpile of arms and ammunition. January 1853: Taiping insurgents reach Wuchang on the Yangtze, then push up to the walls of Nanjing. March 19, 1853: Nanjing falls to Taiping rebels. They carry out a great slaughter of all Manchu survivors of the battle, including women and children. The rebels will rule Nanjing for eleven years. They set up a government in Nanjing, call for land equalization (but do not carry it out), and propose equality between men and women. The Taiping system of civil service examinations is based on Hong Xiuquan’s teachings and a Chinese translation of the Bible. 1854: Qing government establishes a foreignstaffed Inspectorate of Customs. The agency collects maritime customs that provide a steady stream of revenue for the imperial treasury. May 1853–May 1855: A Taiping expeditionary force strikes north. After wintering over near Tianjin in 1854–1855, Taiping columns begin a slow, costly retreat southward. Qing

loyalists destroy the last remnants of the insurgent expedition in the spring of 1855. 1855: Major Yellow River flooding and subsequent famine swell the ranks of the Nian rebels north of the Huai River. 1855: Muslims rise in Yunnan in the southwest, taking the city of Dali and advancing on the provincial capital of Kunming. 1856: Zhang Luoxing becomes “Lord of the Alliance” of Nian rebel groups. They raid throughout east central China from a series of moated strongholds north of the Huai. August 1856: To forestall a suspected coup, Hong Xiquan orders the execution of Taiping leader and chief military adviser Yang Xiuqing; twenty thousand of Yang’s followers are massacred. December 1856: Qing loyalists recapture Wuchang from the Taiping rebels. By year’s end, the loyalist Xiang Army regains most of Jiangxi. December 28, 1857–January 4, 1858: The British, rebuffed in efforts to renegotiate the Treaty of Nanking of 1842, seize Guangzhou. May 1858: British expedition takes the Dagu forts outside Tianjin, opening the way to Beijing. July 3, 1858: British military pressure forces China to accept the Treaty of Tientsin. It protects Christianity, opens the Chinese interior to foreign travelers, extends trade up the Yangtze as far as Hankou, and establishes ten new treaty ports. Finally, the agreement stipulates that the Chinese character for barbarian, used to describe the British, be dropped from Chinese documents. September 1858: Resurgent Taipings defeat the Xiang (Hunan) Army in northern Anhui. June 1859: To enforce the Treaty of Tientsin, the British again attack the Dagu forts. They are repulsed this time with a loss of 432 killed and wounded and four gunboats sunk. 1860: The scholar Feng Guifen writes a series of essays on government and society that helps to launch the late Qing Self-strengthening Movement. He calls for the teaching of foreign languages, mathematics, and sci-

Political History

ence to catch China up with the western powers. In response, the Qing establishes arsenals, shipyards, and schools that teach foreign languages and technological subjects. 1860: The Mongol general Senggelinqin leads a Qing campaign against the Nian rebels. The Nian leader Zhang Luoxing is killed in the fighting. June 1860: Taiping columns capture Suzhou and advance eastward toward the rich lower Yangtze cities. August 25, 1860: British and French forces enter Tianjin after seizing the Dagu forts. September 1860: Qing authorities intercept British and French envoys traveling to Beijing. Thirty-eight Europeans are seized and twenty-five are executed. Sir Frederick Bruce, Britain’s chief negotiator, orders a reinforced British-French column to march on Beijing. October 18, 1860: Anglo-French expeditionary force occupies Beijing. On Bruce’s orders, European troops burn Qianlong’s elegant Summer Palace on the capital’s outskirts but spare the Forbidden City. The Qing agrees to affirm the 1858 treaty. In addition, China cedes to Britain part of the Kowloon Peninsula on the mainland opposite Hong Kong and in effect legalizes the opium trade. 1861–1875: Tongzhi is the Qing emperor. He is five when he ascends the throne, and China’s real rulers are his mother, the dowager empress Cixi (1835–1908), and an uncle, Prince Gong. Together with a small group of key senior officials, they carry out a series of administrative and economic reforms that shore up what appears to be a tottering dynasty. November 11, 1861: Qing establishes the Zongli Yamen (Office for the Management of the Business of All Foreign Countries)— a forerunner of a ministry of foreign affairs. Along with attempting to manage recurring crises with the western powers, the bureau is involved in establishing foreign language schools, analyzing international law, and


studying western government forms and institutions. It also oversees and reviews all legal cases involving Chinese Christians, inasmuch as it understands that foreign powers may intervene on the converts’ behalf. 1862: Muslims rise in Shaanxi and Gansu in northwest China. January–May 1862: Taipings threaten Shanghai; the city’s westerners help defend the city. Along with Zeng Guofan’s Hunan columns, Qing employs a large mercenary force, the Ever Victorious Army, with a heavy complement of foreign officers; it is led first by the American adventurer Frederick Townsend Ward and later by the British Major Charles “Chinese” Gordon. June 1862: With British and French help, Qing loyalists repulse a renewed Taiping attack on Shanghai. June 1, 1864: Hong Xiuquan dies in the Taiping capital of Nanjing. July 19, 1864: Zeng Guofan with his 120,000strong Xiang Army retakes Nanjing, bringing the Taipeng rebellion to a close. 1865–1866: Revived Nian rebel armies defeat Qing loyalists in a series of battles in Hubei, Anhui, and Shandong; in one, the Mongol general Senggelinqin is killed. January–August 1868: In a relentless campaign, Qing forces trap and crush Nian insurgent forces along the Grand Canal, then suppress the last of Nian resistance in Shandong. 1873: Qing forces retake Dali from Muslim insurgents, bringing the Yunnan rebellion to an end. November 1873: Qing army captures Suzhou in northwest Gansu. The long Muslim rebellion in the northwest collapses. January 1875: Emperor Tongzhi dies. His mother, the dowager empress Cixi, appoints her nephew Guangxu, three years old, as successor and continues to rule as regent. Cixi, smart and capable, is the only woman to reach a position of great power in Qing China. 1879: Zuo Zongtang leads a Qing punitive


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expedition against Muslim insurgents in Xinjiang on the northwest frontier. 1880: China has diplomatic legations in London, Paris, Berlin, Madrid, Washington, Tokyo, and St. Petersburg. 1884: Xinjiang (“New Territory”) is made a regular province of China. August 22, 1884: French warships attack a Chinese fleet in Fuzhou harbor after negotiations break down over France’s colonial expansion into Vietnam. Within an hour every Chinese ship—all but two are of wood—is sunk or afire and the arsenal is wrecked. More than five hundred Chinese perish. 1885: Taiwan becomes a full province of China. 1894: The reformer Sun Yat-sen (Sun Zhongshan, 1866–1925), educated in mission schools in Hawaii, offers his services to the senior scholar-official Li Hongzhang. Rebuffed, he forms the Revive China Society in Hawaii and pledges the overthrow of the Manchus. 1894: Rebellion breaks out in Korea. Both China and Japan send expeditionary forces to subdue it. July 21, 1894: Japanese troops seize the Korean royal palace in Seoul and install a puppet regent. At sea, a Japanese warship sinks a Chinese troopship, drowning a thousand soldiers en route to Korea. Late July 1894: Japanese defeat Chinese armies in a series of battles around Seoul and P’yongyang. September 1894: Japanese naval forces attack Chinese fleet of two battleships and ten cruisers off the mouth of the Yalu. The Chinese admiral retreats to the strongly defended port of Weihaiwei. October 1894: Japanese forces cross the Yalu River into Qing territory. January 1895: Japanese column marches overland and takes the Weihaiwei forts from the landward side. The Japanese turn the fort’s guns on the Chinese fleet, sinking one of the battleships and four cruisers. April 1895: The Treaty of Shimonoseki forces

China to recognize the “independence” of Korea (Japan takes effective control of the country), pay an indemnity of 200 million ounces of silver, cede Taiwan, the Pescadores, and Liaodong in southern Manchuria, open four new treaty ports, and allow Japan to open factories in China. European protests pressure the Japanese to return Liaodong. But the Europeans seize Chinese territory for themselves: Germany in Jiaozhou in Shandong; the Russians in part of Liadong; the British in Weihaiwei and the New Territories opposite Hong Kong; and France in Guangzhou Bay. 1895–1898: Kang Youwei (1858–1927) leads a group of young reformers in protesting the treaty with Japan and in pressing the Qing government for change. They hope to extend the Self-strengthening Movement through a wide-ranging set of educational, economic, and administrative reforms. Kang attempts to meld traditional Confucian thought and modern development, arguing that the master had not resisted social and economic change. His A Study of Confucius as a Reformer is published in 1898. 1896: The reformer Liang Qichao (1873– 1929) founds the influential journal Chinese Progress in Shanghai. He publishes essays arguing that China needs to adopt western political thought and institutions as well as technology. 1897: Germany occupies Jiaozhou Bay and Qingdao island off the Shandong Peninsula. Germans establish the brewery there that still makes Qingdao beer. 1898–1899: The United States tries to inaugurate an “Open Door” policy for China; with limited success, the initiative seeks to arrest the Great Powers’ dividing of China into “spheres of influence.” 1898: The secret society of the Harmonious Fists rises in northwest Shandong. Known in the West as the Boxers, they blame all China’s ills on foreigners. Mostly young, male, and poor, they find allies among

Political History

women’s groups such as the Red Lanterns Shining. March 1898: Qing court grants Russia twentyfive-year leases of the ports of Dailan and Lushun (Port Arthur) on the Liaodong Peninsula. June–September 1898: Emperor Guangxu launches the so-called Hundred Days Reforms in government, education, commerce, and the military. He orders the examination system modernized (dropping calligraphy as an important subject, for example), the Beijing college upgraded with the addition of a medical school, mining and railroad institutes established, and military training and weaponry updated. September 21, 1898: The dowager Cixi issues an edict announcing that the emperor has asked her to resume power. Guangxu is put under palace arrest, six leading reformers are executed without trial, and most of the reforms are canceled. Kang Youwei, absent from the capital at the time of the coup, and Liang Qichao manage to escape abroad. Although she is a clever politician, Cixi’s corruption and conservatism are perhaps exaggerated. Still, she is wholly committed to the traditional system, and particularly to her own survival in power. Early 1899: Boxers step up attacks on Chinese Christian converts along the Shandong-Hebei border. Foreign missionaries call on Qing forces to quell the outbreaks. June 1900: Armed Boxer groups appear in Beijing and Tianjin. Several foreign missionaries and engineers are killed. Western powers send a contingent of four hundred troops to protect foreigners in the capital. June 17, 1900: Westerners seize the Dagu forts in preparation for the landing of a punitive expedition at Tianjin. June 19, 1900: Boxers lay siege to the legation quarter in Beijing. June 21, 1900: The dowager Cixi issues a proclamation against the Western powers. Boxers respond with stepped-up attacks on the missions and other foreigners. In the pro-


vincial city of Taiyuan southwest of Beijing, Qing officials with Boxer sympathies round up and murder forty-four missionary men, women, and children. August 1900: The reformer Kang Youwei launches a rising in Hubei and Anhui. His aim is to restore Guangxu as a constitutional monarch. Qing forces subdue the brief insurgency. August 4, 1900: A multinational column of 20,800 troops (Japan, Russia, Britain, the United States, and France are represented) marches from Tianjin toward Beijing. August 14, 1900: Western troops enter Beijing, lift the legation siege, and loot the city. The dowager and emperor flee, establishing a temporary capital at Xian in the Wei River valley. October 1900: Sun Yat-sen’s small-scale republican uprising near Guangzhou is quickly suppressed. January 1901: From Xian, the dowager empress Cixi issues a call for reforms similar to those of 1898. In one of the most fateful changes, the Qing moves to reorganize the semi-autonomous provincial armed forces and the traditional Manchu banner formations into a “New Army” of 450,000 men modeled along western lines. September 1901: Under duress, China signs the treaty known as the Boxer Protocol. It requires China to pay a staggering indemnity of $330 million, execute leading Boxers and their supporters, and permit foreign troops to garrison the legation quarter of Beijing. 1902–1907: From exile in Japan, Liang Qichao edits the influential reform journal New People’s Miscellany. June 1902: Cixi and Emperor Guangxu return to Beijing. 1903: The Japanese-educated political activist Zou Rong publishes his anti-Manchu creed, The Revolutionary Army. He challenges China to overthrow the Manchus and end foreign domination of the country. Zou also calls for elected legislatures, equality of


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women and freedoms of press and assembly. He will die of illness in a Shanghai prison in 1905. 1905: Sun Yat-sen brings several radical groups together in the Revolutionary Alliance. It follows a republican and generally socialist political line. 1905: The Qing court abolishes the examination system, the basis of traditional Chinese education. 1906: Qing establishes a Ministry of Posts and Communications. Among other things, the new bureau oversees China’s growing railroad network. 1906: A summary and partial translation of Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto circulates in China. September 1906: The dowager Cixi appoints a constitutional commission to tour Japan, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia and study their government structures. On return, the committee recommends imperial/parliamentary Japan as a model for China. November 1906: Cixi issues an edict promising a constitution for China and reform of government administration. In 1908, the Qing will announce a plan to introduce constitutional government gradually over a nine-year period. 1907: Yuan Shi-kai (1859–1916), the reforming governor of Tianjin, authorizes elections for a local council. July 1907: The Zhejiang schoolteacher Qiu Jin leads an anti-Qing rising. Captured and executed after a short trial, she becomes a revolutionary martyr. November 1908: Emperor Guangxu and the dowager Cixi die within a day of each other. The infant Puyi (1905–1967) ascends as the tenth and last emperor of the Qing. October 1909: China’s first provincial assemblies, the product of the Qing’s hesitant reforms, convene. October 1910: Under the auspices of the Qing government, a provisional National Assembly meets in Beijing.

November 1910: Qing court agrees to speed

constitutional process, announcing it will allow a fully elected national parliament to meet in November 1913. October 9, 1911: An accidental explosion in a revolutionary bomb factory brings matters to a head in the mid-Yangtze industrial city of Hankou. Qing police raid the revolutionary headquarters and summarily execute three leaders. October 10, 1911: A New Army unit sympathetic to the revolutionaries mutinies in Wuchang. Other units rally to its support later in the day. Next day, the revolutionary societies touch off a rising in the third of the Wuhan cities, Hanyang. October 12, 1911: Hankou garrison mutinies. October 22, 1911: The revolt spreads. New Army units mutiny in Shaanxi and Hunan, killing many imperial officials. By the end of October Shanxi, Jiangxi, and Yunnan provinces are in revolt. October 30, 1911: Qing court authorizes the National Assembly to draft a constitution. November 1911: Jiang Kanghu founds the first Chinese socialist party. November–December 1911: Jiangsu, Sichuan, and Shandong provincial assemblies declare for the Revolutionary Alliance. November 8, 1911: Beijing provisional National Assembly elects the Qing reformer Yuan Shi-kai premier of China. November 11, 1911: Qing court ratifies National Assembly’s appointment of Yuan Shikai and orders him to form a cabinet. Early December 1911: New Army revolutionaries capture Nanjing. December 25, 1911: Revolutionary Alliance leader Sun Yat-sen reaches Shanghai from France. December 29, 1911: Delegates from sixteen provincial assemblies choose Sun Yat-sen as president of the provisional Republic of China. January 1, 1912: Sun Yat-sen takes office in Nanjing. His provisional government announces China henceforth will abandon the

Political History

traditional twenty-eight- to thirty-day lunar calendar with a ten-day week and follow the western seven-day week. Sun Yat-sen agrees to relinquish the presidency to Yuan Shi-kai, the last Qing premier. January 28, 1912: Provincial delegates of the Revolutionary Alliance, meeting in Nanjing, choose a National Council.


The Qing court announces the abdication of the last emperor, six-year-old Puyi, ending more than two thousand years of China’s imperial history. February 13, 1912: Yuan Shikai takes office as president of the Republic of China. At Sun Yat-sen’s urging, the Republican National Council endorses Yuan. February 12, 1912:

THE REPUBLIC: 1912–1949 China fragments politically in the aftermath of the fall of the Qing dynasty. The dictator Yuan Shikai attempts to form a strong central government and even contemplates declaring himself emperor, but after his death in 1916 the warlords are ascendant and the Western powers extend their influence. Military commanders, provincial governors, and even bandits rule from regional strongholds. Mongolia and Tibet declare their independence. The first decades of the twentieth century are tumultuous. China sees an unprecedented influx of foreign products, ideas, and ways. At the same time, there is political confusion and upheaval: failed efforts to revive the empire, a lapse into warlord rule that devastates the countryside, widespread nationalist and antiforeign agitation, and continued foreign aggrandizement in the port cities. Cultural change comes fast and furious. The New Culture Movement seeks to throw off the dead hand of the Confucian past. Periodicals such as New Youth reject traditional ways of thinking. Newspapers find wider audiences. Classical literary Chinese is abandoned as a medium. Culturally, in China as in the West, this is an era of self-analysis and experimentation. Political ferment produces the nationalist May Fourth Movement of 1919, student-launched but with broad support from all classes in China’s cities. The two main national powers, the Nationalist Guomindang (Kuomintang) and the Chinese Communist Party, build their own political organizations and armies. Sometimes the two powers cooperate in mobilizing opposition to the “twin evils”—warlordism and imperialism. But at bottom they are deadly rivals. In 1928, the Nationalists unify China under Chiang Kai-shek. They purge their erstwhile Communist partners, attain international recognition, and gain control of customs, the revenue-producing salt monopoly, and the post office. German advisors help the Nationalists upgrade the army and train elite units to operate against the Communists in their interior strongholds. Western advisors help reform the banking, currency, taxation, transportation, and communications systems. Urban China modernizes. Industrial production rises, though working conditions approximate those of the West a century earlier: that is to say, wages are low, hours are long, and child labor is prevalent. European goods are widely available. Middle-class Chinese adopt western dress. Newspapers circulate. A professional class of scientists, engineers, economists, and lawyers gains influence. Women’s roles undergo a fundamental change. The custom of footbinding, once a symbol of cultural pride, now is cause for apology. Women’s education expands, and women increasingly enter the workplace. Change comes but slowly in the countryside, where the majority of China’s people live much as their forebears lived for centuries. For most Chinese, existence is as precarious as ever. Local authorities are often tyrannical and corrupt. Farming methods remain primitive: crops


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are hand-sown and hand-harvested, and produce is carried, not shipped, to market. Continued population growth overwhelms China’s productive capacity, and puts intolerable pressure on the land. Political conflict simmers all the while. The Japanese invasion of 1937 fragments China anew. In a three-cornered conflict, China resists the Japanese aggressor, while Nationalists and Communists, after a brief period of cooperation, fight each other. As World War II engulfs China, the Nationalists become increasingly corrupt and ineffective. The Communists under Mao Zedong gain control of North China village and country districts out of range of the Japanese occupation. They carry out land redistribution and other reforms and build considerable support for their aims. The Communists emphasize political indoctrination: “Under the Nationalists, too many taxes,” runs a Hebei peasant joke. “Under the Communists, too many meetings.” With the end of the Pacific War, full-scale civil war erupts. From their bases in the north, the Communists launch a bid for control of all China. Nationalist forces dissolve. The Communists take power in all of mainland China by 1949. The Nationalist leaders withdraw to the island of Taiwan, their last bastion. March 1912: Yuan Shikai’s Beijing-based gov-

May 1913: With the Guomindang plotting to

ernment quells mutinies and outbreaks in Beijing, Tianjin, and Baoding. March 11, 1912: The National Council in Nanjing promulgates a draft constitution guaranteeing equality and protection of persons before the law, freedom of worship, and freedom of assembly. It calls for the election of a full national parliament by year’s end. August 1912: China’s political factions prepare for the country’s first national elections. The leading group, Sun Yat-sen’s Revolutionary Alliance, reorganizes as the Guomindang (National People’s Party). December 1912: China goes to the polls. Some 40 million voters, males with some property and an elementary school graduation certificate, are eligible. January 13, 1913: Election results are announced. The Guomindang is the clear winner, with a near-majority of 269 of 596 seats in the House of Representatives and 123 of 274 in the appointive Senate. March 20, 1913: The Guomindang parliamentary leader Song Jiaoren, thirty years old, is shot at the Shanghai railroad station. He dies two days later. Song’s assailants are agents of Yuan Shikai. April 1913: Parliament convenes. May 1913: The United States extends full diplomatic recognition to Yuan Shikai’s government.

overthrow him in a “Second Revolution,” Yuan Shikai dismisses leading Guomindang military governors. July–September 1913: Troops loyal to Yuan Shikai take the offensive and rout Guomindang military forces. September 1913: Yuan Shikai’s army occupies Nanjing. October 1913: Yuan coerces parliament into choosing him for a five-year presidential term. He declares the Guomindang a seditious organization, expels its members from parliament, and drives Sun Yat-sen back into exile. October 7, 1913: Under pressure from Britain, Yuan Shikai announces autonomy for Tibet. Britain extends diplomatic recognition to Yuan’s regime the same day. Japan and Russia shortly follow. December 1913–January 1914: The bandit leader known as White Wolf sweeps through Henan and Anhui, attracting thousands of peasant recruits. Sun Yat-sen’s organization attempts to ally with White Wolf. January 1914: China’s parliament is formally dissolved. In February, Yuan Shikai orders dissolution of provincial assemblies and local government bodies. He also tightens controls on the press. May 1, 1914: Yuan Shikai declares a “constitutional compact” that makes him virtual

Political History

dictator, with unlimited power over war, foreign policy, and finance. July 1914: Sun Yat-sen establishes the Revolutionary Party (Gemingdang), a radical offshoot of the Guomindang. August 1914: Government forces track down the remnants of White Wolf’s bandit gang; White Wolf is killed in the fighting. January 1915: Japan issues the Twenty-one Demands on China. Japan seeks extended economic rights in Manchuria and Inner Mongolia, new trading rights in Fujian, and joint Japanese-Chinese administration of a major coal and iron complex in central China. China yields, triggering anti-Japanese protests, often led by returned students who will found the May Fourth Movement in a few years. December 12, 1915: Yuan Shikai announces that he will assume the title of emperor on January 1, 1916. Yuan moved earlier to reestablish Confucianism as the state religion; he carries out Confucian rituals at the Qing Temple of Heaven. A wave of protest greets Yuan’s proclamation; Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangxi, and other provinces declare their independence from the central government. March 22, 1916: Yuan Shikai rescinds his decree restoring the monarchy with himself as emperor. June 6, 1916: Yuan Shikai dies. His successor is ineffectual, and central authority continues to collapse. June–July 1917: Zhang Zun, one of Yuan Shikai’s generals, occupies Beijing. On July 1 he restores the boy emperor Puyi, now eleven, to China’s throne. Rival generals storm the Forbidden City, chase Zhang into the Dutch Legation, and depose Puyi for a second time, inaugurating the era of warlord rule. August 1917: The Beijing government declares war on Germany, joining Britain, France, and their allies in World War I. China offers no troops, but 100,000 Chinese are sent to France as laborers. May 4, 1919: Thousands of Beijing University students rally at Tiananmen Square to pro-


test the Versailles peace settlement’s award of German treaty rights in Shandong to Japan. Hundreds of students are arrested. The rally sets off a wave of demonstrations around the country; student strikes close schools in two hundred cities. The protest gives rise to the anti-imperial May Fourth Movement, which takes up a broad range of political and cultural issues: foreign domination, arranged marriages, education, labor, and the arts. The multitude of the people will, with one heart, proceed to build the richest and happiest country in the world—a country of the people, by the people, and for the people. Sun Yat-sen (1919)

1920: Sun Yat-sen dissolves the Revolutionary

party and formally reestablishes the Guomindang. His Three Principles—nationalism, democracy, and the people’s livelihood— form the basis of Guomindang ideology. Sun, however, commands limited political authority from his base in Shanghai. 1921: Workers in China’s expanding industries stage fifty-one major strikes; the number rises to ninety-one in 1922. July 1921: The Communist Party is founded in Shanghai. The party breaks with other radical groups and constitutes itself as a secret, power-seeking revolutionary party. Mao Zedong (1893–1976) is a Hunan delegate to this founding party conference. The son of a rich and educated peasant father and an illiterate mother, he is a graduate of the Changsha teachers college, a librarian at Beijing University, and an adherent of the May Fourth Movement. 1922: The Nine-Power Treaty negotiated in Washington condemns spheres of influence in China and proclaims the “sovereignty, the independence, and the territorial and administrative integrity” of the country. September 1922: Acting on advice from the Soviet Comintern, the republican leader Sun Yat-sen forms an uneasy anti-warlord al-


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liance with the Communists and reorganizes the Guomindang along Soviet lines. The Communists, now around two hundred strong, have four priorities for China: reunification, organization of the urban working class, war on poverty in the countryside, and expulsion of foreign forces. February 1923: Sun Yat-sen declares himself “grand marshal” of a Guomindang military government claiming authority over South China. February 7, 1923: Troops of the warlord Wu Peifu (1874–1939) attack striking railway workers in the Wuhan region, killing thirtyfive. His soldiers behead one union leader and display the severed head at a railroad station. The strikers return to work on February 9. Mid-1920s: The Japanese maintain an army in the Chinese province of Manchuria to protect their railroad and other economic interests. Japan’s military presses for a full occupation of the province. 1924: Chiang Kai-shek (Jiang Jieshi, 1888– 1975), scion of a merchant/gentry family from the Ningbo area, becomes commandant of the new Whampoa Military Academy at Guangzhou (Canton). The Communist Zhou Enlai is the academy’s political director. 1925: The Comintern maintains a thousand Russian military advisers in China. Comintern organizer Michael Borodin and the others assist the Nationalists with party-building and developing effective military forces. February–April 1925: Guomindang forces under Chiang Kai-shek win a series of battles (the First Eastern Expedition) over the Guangdong warlord Chen Jiongming. March 12, 1925: Sun Yat-sen, fifty-nine years old, dies of liver cancer in Beijing, setting off a struggle for succession in the Guomindang. May 30, 1925: British police in the International Settlement of Shanghai fire on antiforeign Chinese demonstrators, killing

eleven. Strikes, protests, and boycotts spread. June 6–12, 1925: A Guomindang army de-

feats warlord forces near Guangzhou (Canton), taking seventeen thousand prisoners and sixteen thousand weapons. Chiang Kaishek commands the Nationalist garrison in the city. June 23, 1925: British open fire on demonstrators in Guangzhou; fifty-two are killed and one hundred wounded. The Chinese mount strikes and a successful boycott of British Hong Kong in response. July 1, 1925: From its base in Guangzhou, the Guomindang proclaims a national government. June 5, 1926: Chiang Kai-shek is named to command the main Guomindang army, now dubbed the National Revolutionary Army. July 1, 1926: The Nationalist army under Chiang Kai-shek launches the Northern Expedition, with Communist assistance and the help of Russian arms and advisers. July 11, 1926: Nationalists occupy the key Hunan city of Changsha. August 17–22, 1926: Nationalists besiege the three-city Wuhan region of the mid-Yangtze, trapping warlord Wu Peifu’s forces. September 6–7, 1926: Nationalists take the Wuhan cities of Hanyang and Hankou. October 10, 1926: Wuchang, the third of the Wuhan cities, falls to the Nationalists after a forty-day siege. The Guomindang moves its capital from Guangzhou to Wuhan. December 18, 1926: Nationalist forces advancing up the east coast take Fuzhou in Fujian. Nationalists now control seven South China provinces with a total population of 170 million. February 1927: The General Labor Union in Shanghai calls a general strike in support of Nationalist columns advancing on the city. Warlord forces break the strike after two days, beheading twenty strikers. March 21, 1927: The general Labor Union launches a second general strike in Shang-

Political History

hai. Some 600,000 workers walk off the job. Power and telephone lines are cut and there is heavy fighting in much of the city. Some 22,000 foreign troops and police and fortytwo warships guard the International Settlement. March 22, 1927: Nationalist forces enter Shanghai. March 23, 1927: Nationalist vanguard enters Nanjing. March 24, 1927: Nationalist troops in Nanjing loot the British, Japanese, and American consulates, killing six foreigners. American and British warships covering the evacuation of fifty foreign nationals shell the city, killing as many as thirty-nine Chinese (the figures are disputed). April 12, 1927: Chiang Kai-shek orders the Shanghai racketeering organization known as the Green Gang to attack union headquarters in the city. Hundreds of union leaders and other leftists are murdered over the next several weeks. April 18, 1927: Defying the Guomindang leaders in Wuhan, Chiang Kai-shek forms a Nationalist government with himself at the head. He establishes his capital at Nanjing. The “Left” Guomindang remains in control in Wuhan. September 1927: Communists attempt to strike back at the right-wing Nationalists with the “Autumn Harvest Uprising,” a series of attacks on several Hunan towns led by Mao Zedong. They are unsuccessful. For the next three years, Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists will hunt down Communists throughout the country. October 1927: Mao Zedong leads a thousand survivors of the Nationalist purges and Autumn Uprising defeats into the Jinggang Mountains along the Hunan-Jiangxi border. December 11, 1927: On orders from Stalin, the Communist Qu Qiubai (1889–1935) leads an uprising in Guangzhou (Canton). Guomindang and warlord troops crush the so-called Canton Commune after two days.


They can be divided into soldiers, bandits, robbers, beggars, and prostitutes. But they are all human beings, and they all have five senses and four limbs, and are therefore one. To the extent that they must all earn their livelihood and cook rice to eat, they are one. Mao Zedong (1928)

Late 1928: Nationalist pressure forces Mao

Zedong’s little army out of the Jinggang Mountains. He resettles in a mountainous district along the Jiangxi-Fujian border and establishes the Jiangxi Soviet there, with his main base in the town of Riujin. Separate Soviets operate in remote regions of Anhui, Hubei, Hunan, Zhejiang, and Guangxi. March 1928: Chiang Kai-shek’s forces resume the Northern Expedition. He finances it largely by extortionate levies on Shanghai’s Chinese industrialists. April 1928: Nationalist columns campaign in Shandong. May 3–11, 1928: Nationalist Chinese and Japanese forces clash around and in the Yellow River city of Jinan. The Japanese, protecting their concessions in Jinan, drive the Nationalists from the city after heavy fighting. June 2, 1928: Zhang Zuolin, the most powerful of the northern warlords, withdraws from Beijing. Two days later, he dies when a bomb explosion wrecks his northbound train. Japanese army officers are responsible. June 8 and 12, 1928: Nationalists occupy Beijing and Tianjin. December 29, 1928: Zhang Xueliang, successor to his murdered father as Manchurian warlord, declares his loyalty to the Nationalist government, completing China’s nominal unification. (Only four provinces, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui, and Jiangxi, are under Nationalist control.) Nanjing is declared the official capital of China. January 1929: National Reorganization and Demobilization Conference agrees to limit China’s armies to 800,000 men and cap


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military spending at 41 percent of the total budget. March–May 1929: Chiang Kai-shek consolidates his power by suppressing military uprisings in Guangxi and Shandong. July–September 1930: A bloody civil war rages between the Nanjing government and the anti-Chiang Kai-shek Northern Coalition. Chiang’s forces emerge as the winner; the conflict costs 250,000 casualties on both sides. September 18, 1931: Japanese provocateurs sabotage the South Manchurian Railway near Mukden (Shenyang) and use the incident as a pretext to occupy the city. China appeals to the League of Nations. The League recognizes China’s claim, but fails to sanction Japan for the so-called Mukden Incident. By year’s end, Nationalist forces have withdrawn south of the Great Wall and the Japanese are in full control of Manchuria. January 1932: Chiang Kai-shek resumes the office of president after a temporary “retirement” from public life following the Mukden Incident. He also holds the titles of chief of the General Staff and chairman of the National Military Council. January 29, 1932: After an exchange of fire with Nationalist troops, Japanese forces attack Shanghai. The Japanese bomb the working class district of Chapei from the air, killing many civilians. March 1932: The deposed emperor Puyi, twenty-five, is named “chief executive” of the Japanese puppet state in Manchuria, now dubbed “Manchukuo”—Chinese for “Manchurian nation.” May 1932: Japan agrees to an armistice that ends three months of fighting around Shanghai. July–October 1932: The third in a series of Nationalist “Bandit Suppression Campaigns” aimed at the Communists threatens Mao Zedong’s Jiangxi Soviet. Nationalists launch the “3:7” program—an anti-Communist campaign three parts military and

seven parts political. The political component includes local government reform, rent reduction, and food, seed, tools, and other aid to the peasantry. January–April 1933: Japanese forces advance into Rehe province in northeast China. After weeks of hard fighting, they take complete control of the province. February 1933: The League of Nations rejects the idea of an independent existence for Manchuria. In response, the Japanese take permanent leave of the international organization. May 1933: Japanese troops move into Hebei province south of the Great Wall. At month’s end China sues for peace. The truce negotiated at Tanggu declares northeast Hebei a demilitarized zone; the Japanese pull back to the Great Wall. October 1933: Nationalists begin their fifth military campaign against the Communists. 1934: Chiang Kai-shek launches the Fascistinspired New Life Movement. The object is to make the Chinese “willing to sacrifice for the nation at all times.” Also on the Fascist pattern, young military academy graduates known as the Blueshirts (founded in 1932) act as a Nationalist secret police, spying on political opponents, and carrying out assassinations and lesser acts of intimidation. Only those who readapt themselves to new conditions, day by day, can live properly. When the life of a people is going through this process of readaptation, it has to remedy its own defects, and get rid of those elements which become useless. Then we call it new life. Chiang Kai-shek (1934)

March 1934: Puyi is installed as “emperor” of

Manchukuo. August 1934: Germany and China sign a se-

cret military and economic aid treaty. Modern German arms and industrial capacity are to be exchanged for strategic raw materials from China.

Political History

Under intense pressure from Nationalist blockade and encirclement (the 5th Bandit Suppression Campaign), Communist military leaders plan a breakout from the Jiangxi Soviet. October 16, 1934: Some eighty thousand Communist troops and support units fight their way out of the Nationalist encirclement and begin the famous Long March, the great saga of China’s Communist Party. Some twenty thousand wounded and many women and children are left behind to await Nationalist occupation. January 7, 1935: Communists reach Zunyi in Guizhou province, where they replenish their stores from large stocks of food and clothing. January 15–18, 1935: At the Zunyi Conference, Communist leaders analyze the Jiangxi failure. Mao Zedong is raised to full Politburo membership, an important step on his climb to complete control of the Chinese Communist Party. May–June 1935: Communists march north into Sichuan and cross the rugged Great Snow Mountains. They reach Mougong on June 12 with around forty thousand men— half their strength at the outset of the Long March. August–September 1935: Communist columns advance slowly through marshlands along the Qinghai/Gansu border. Exhaustion, illness, and exposure claim thousands of Long Marchers. October 20, 1935: The Red Army, down to a strength of around eight thousand men, links up with Communist guerrillas in remote northern Shaanxi and establishes a new base at Yan’an. Thus the year-long, sixthousand-mile Long March ends. In December, Mao Zedong sums it up with these words: “It is a manifesto, a propaganda force, a seeding machine. It has proclaimed to the world that the Red Army is an army of heroes, while the imperialists and their running dogs, Chiang Kai-shek and the like, are impotent.” August–September 1934:


In Yan’an Mao formulates his theory of the peasantry rather than the proletariat as being the vanguard of revolution. He also wins a power struggle for control of the Communist Party, eliminating one rival after another. December 9, 1935: Thousands of students rally in Beijing to protest Japanese aggression. The protests spread quickly to Nanjing, Wuhan, Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Guangzhou. 1936: A Nationalist government count puts China’s population at 479,084,651. October–November 1936: Chinese defenders repulse invasion of Japanese puppet forces in northern province of Suiyuan. December 12, 1936: Chinese troops loyal to the Manchurian warlord Zhang Xueliang seize Chiang Kai-shek in Xian. They demand an end to the civil war and a united front with the Communists against Japan. December 25, 1936: Chiang Kai-shek is freed after he agrees to ease military pressure on the Communists and take steps toward a united front. July 7, 1937: Chinese troops fire on a Japanese unit near the strategic Marco Polo Bridge west of Beijing. Japan responds with an attack on the rail junction town of Wanping. The “Marco Polo Bridge Incident” will touch off a full-scale war. July 27–31, 1937: Renewed fighting breaks out around the Marco Polo Bridge; Japanese seize control of the entire Beijing-Tianjin area. August 14, 1937: The Chinese Nationalist air force bombs Japanese warships at anchor off Shanghai. The Nationalists miss their targets and hit the city instead, killing hundreds of civilians. August–October 1937: In a series of fierce battles around Shanghai, Nationalists absorb 250,000 casualties—knocking more than half of Chiang Kai-shek’s best troops out of action. September 1937: As part of the united front agreement, the Red Army is redesignated the 8th Route Army and placed under nominal


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Nationalist command. The Nanjing government will authorize a second Communist army, dubbed the New Fourth Army, in 1938. November 1937: Japanese warplanes attack and sink the U.S. gunboat Panay as it attempts to evacuate American nationals from Nanjing. November 11, 1937: Nationalists begin their retreat west from Shanghai. December 13, 1937: Japanese forces enter Nanjing and launch a savage campaign of terror. At least twenty thousand women are rape victims; some 140,000 civilians and Chinese soldiers are murdered. (Some recent research suggests these figures are underestimates.) Japanese looting and arson leaves much of the city in ruins. Westerners call the seven-week rampage the Rape of Nanking. Early 1938: Nationalist armies retreat westward up the Yangtze. As the Japanese advance, they establish puppet regimes to rule their China conquests, with Chinese collaborators in nominal authority. May 1938: As the Japanese approach the ancient capital of Kaifeng, Chiang Kai-shek orders Yellow River dikes blown up. The demolition inundates four thousand villages, kills many peasants, and delays the Japanese advance by four months. October 21, 1938: Japanese amphibious forces seize Guangzhou (Canton). October 25, 1938: After months of heavy fighting, Japanese forces take Wuhan. They now control most of east China from Beijing south to Guangzhou. December 2, 1938: The mountainous, 715mile-long Burma Road, now the Nationalists’ sole reliable supply route, officially opens. First shipments from Rangoon reach Kunming, the Yunnan capital, later in the month. December 8, 1938: Chiang Kai-shek reaches Chongqing in Sichuan one thousand miles up the Yangtze and establishes the Nationalist capital there.

May 1939: The Japanese air force begins sys-

tematic bombing of Chongqing. September–October 1939: With signing of

the Nazi-Soviet pacts, the Soviet Union cuts off military aid to China. 1940: Communists intensify recruitment efforts in their North China strongholds. Party membership climbs to 800,000 and the Communists steadily widen their base of support among the peasantry. 1940: The United States agrees to ship one hundred P-40 fighter aircraft to the Nationalists. Former American air force officer Claire L. Chennault, an adviser to Chiang Kai-shek, recruits U.S. pilots for service in China. They will become famous as the Flying Tigers. August 20, 1940: Communist forces launch a series of attacks against the Japanese in North China known as the Hundred Regiments Offensive. The operation is a failure. Counterattacking Japanese inflict 100,000 casualties on the Communists in September and October, devastating the region through which they pass, destroying entire villages in some instances. January 7–13, 1941: Nationalists attack Communist New Fourth Army units south of the Yangtze. The so-called New Fourth Army Incident virtually ends the Nationalist/Communist united front against Japan. Communists withdraw and regroup north of the river. Chiang Kai-shek imposes an economic blockade, sharply restricting the flow of food and weapons to Communist forces. August–October 1941: Japanese troops, in a North China pacification campaign, kill 4,500 villagers, burn 150,000 dwellings, and ship 17,000 Chinese to Manchuria as forced laborers. December 1941: British Hong Kong falls to the Japanese. February 1, 1942: Communists at Yan’an open a “Rectification Campaign” of ideological purification. Continuing into 1943, it features readings of Mao’s texts, public confessions, and public humiliation of Mao’s ri-

Political History

vals such as party theorist Wang Ming. Mao’s line becomes unchallengeable, any deviation from it attacked as subjective, liberal, and petty bourgeois. April 1942: Japanese forces seize the Burmese town of Lashio, sealing off the Burma Road and cutting a vital allied supply line into China. 1943: Nationalists conscript 1.67 million men for military service. An estimated 44 percent die or desert before they join their commands. January 1943: The Allies agree to abolish the system of extraterritoriality that for a century has denied China full control of its own affairs. March 1943: Japanese troops round up the foreign community of Beijing, around 1,500 adults and children, for transfer to an internment camp in Shandong. April–November 1944: Japanese forces go over to the offensive, marching south through Hunan along the Xiang River to Changsha and then onto Henyang and Guilin in Guangxi. The objective is twofold: to open a north-south overland communications corridor stretching from Korea to Vietnam, and to knock out U.S. airfields. The Ichigo Campaign, as the Japanese dub the operation, exposes the hollowness and incapacity of Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist forces, which acknowledge taking 300,000 casualties. June 1944: U.S. heavy bombers launch raids on Japanese targets from Chinese airfields. On June 15 the Americans bomb Japan from China for the first time, hitting a steel plant on the southern island of Kyushu. August 1944: The U.S. observer group known as the Dixie Mission reaches the Communist bastion at Yan’an; the American high command discusses offering aid to Mao Zedong’s forces. January 1944: Americans shelve plans to aid Communist forces in the face of intense opposition from the Nationalists. October 1944: At Chiang Kai-shek’s urging,


the U.S. recalls Gen. Joseph Stilwell, America’s liaison with the Nationalists since 1941. Stilwell has become an increasingly harsh critic of the Chinese generalissimo. April 1945: Communist Party membership in North China reaches 1.2 million. The 8th Route and New 4th armies muster 900,000 men. Communists claim authority over territory with a population of 95 million. August 8, 1945: Soviet forces advance against the Japanese in Manchuria. August 14, 1945: After two U.S. atomic attacks on Japanese cities, Japan surrenders, bringing World War II to a close. August–September 1945: Under an agreement with the Nationalists, United States forces occupy four key Chinese ports, Shanghai, Dagu (Tianjin), Qingdao, and Guangzhou. U.S. Marine contingents are sent to Beijing and Tianjin. A U.S. airlift moves 110,000 Nationalist troops to key cities. Japanese commanders are instructed not to surrender to Communist units. At the same time, the 100,000-strong Communist 8th Route Army under Lin Biao moves into Manchuria and occupies the region’s key cities. Soviet forces in Manchuria allow Lin Biao’s command access to stockpiles of Japanese arms and ammunition. September 1945: Nationalists allow Japanese puppet government officials to retain their positions in many places, largely as a means of blocking Communist expansion. Some collaborators are given senior rank in the Nationalist army. October 10, 1945: U.S.-sponsored negotiations between Nationalists and Communists yield a joint statement on political democracy, a unified military force, and equal legal status for all political organizations. There are, however, no mechanisms for enforcing the agreement. November 15, 1945: Nationalists attack Communist forces in Manchuria. Late November 1945: The U.S. ambassador to China, Patrick Hurley, resigns abruptly. He accuses American foreign service officers


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of favoring the Communists and undermining U.S. efforts to stabilize the Chiang Kaishek regime. December 23, 1945: U.S. special envoy General George C. Marshall arrives in China. January 11–31, 1946: Representatives of the Communists, the Guomindang, and other political parties meet in Nanjing for a “political consultative conference.” They reach accord on constitutional government, a unified military, and a national assembly. Meantime, both sides violate the truce and military clashes are frequent. The Nationalists breach the Nanjing political agreement, reserving the presidency for Chiang Kai-shek and moving to limit the power of the Communists in the proposed new State Council. January 13, 1946: A cease-fire negotiated by the Marshall Mission takes effect. Spring 1946: Both sides repeatedly violate the truce in Manchuria. Communist forces resist Nationalist efforts to occupy Manchurian cities but are gradually forced to retreat to the north. June 7, 1946: U.S. envoy Marshall negotiates a two-week cease-fire in Manchuria. The truce is extended to month’s end, but the Nationalists and Communists fail to reach an accord. July 1946: Nationalists renew the offensive in the northeast, formally opening the Chinese Civil War of 1946–1949. The Communists reorganize their forces as the People’s Liberation Army. Nationalist forces are successful in the first phase of the war. Between July 1946 and June 1947 they occupy most major cities in northeastern China, cross the Yellow River and advance into southern Shanxi, and record military gains elsewhere. In Manchuria, the Nationalists force the 8th Route Army to withdraw beyond the Sungari River to the stronghold of Harbin. July 1946: Communist units attack a U.S. supply convoy en route from Tianjin to Beijing. Three Americans are killed, a fourth is

mortally wounded, and a dozen others are injured. Late July 1946: U.S. places embargo on shipments of war materiel to China. It will be lifted partially in October and entirely in May 1947. October 1946: General Marshall, charging the Nationalists are using negotiations as a cover for operations against the Communists, recommends the recall of his mission. October 10, 1946: Nationalist troops drive Communists from Kalgan in North China. November 1946: Communist troops under Lin Biao cross the frozen Sungari River, attack the Nationalists in their winter camps, then withdraw. Lin repeats these hit-and-run tactics in January, February, and March 1947, inflicting casualties, capturing weapons stocks, and disrupting Nationalist plans for an offensive. November 1946: Acting on its own, the Guomindang convenes a national assembly and drafts a constitution. The Communists and other political parties are not involved. January 6, 1947: The Marshall Mission is ended. By the last day of the month, all U.S. negotiating teams are dissolved. May 1947: Nationalist offensive begins to lose momentum. Lin Biao’s 400,000-strong Communist army launches a counteroffensive against Nationalist-held cities in Manchuria, isolating the garrisons by cutting the cities’ railroad links. Apathy spreads through the Nationalist ranks. June–August 1947: Separate Communist armies cross the Yellow River and advance into Henan, Hebei, and Anhui. April 1948: Communists recapture their old Shaanxi stronghold of Yan’an. April 1948: Luoyang falls to the Communists. The Nationalist government’s National Assembly meets to elect a president and vice president. May 1948: Communist army surrounds Mukden (Shenyang), trapping 200,000 Nationalist troops who can be supplied only by air. July 1948: An estimated five thousand Man-

Political History

churian students in Beijing rally in protest of Nationalist policies; police open fire on the crowd, killing fourteen and wounding more than one hundred. August 19, 1948: Chiang Kai-shek imposes a series of Financial and Economic Emergency Measures in an effort to stave off economic collapse. They limit inflation-inducing printing of banknotes, forbid wage and price increases and strikes and demonstrations, and raise taxes on commodities. September–October 1948: Communists under Lin Biao capture Mukden and Changchun in Manchuria, killing or taking prisoner 400,000 Nationalist troops. November 1948: A 600,000-strong Communist army masses for an attack on the railroad junction of Xuzhou in central China. The city falls after a sixty-five-day battle. Early 1949: Nationalists prepare Taiwan as a final retreat; 300,000 troops loyal to Chiang Kai-shek are massed there. January 14–15, 1949: Lin Biao takes Tianjin. January 1949: Chiang Kai-shek resigns as


president of Nationalist China but maintains control of the Guomindang and the armed forces. January 22, 1949: The Nationalist commander at Beijing agrees to withdraw from the city. January 31, 1949: Communist forces enter Beijing. April 1949: Communists give Nationalist President Li Zongren a surrender ultimatum; he refuses to capitulate. April 23, 1949: Nanjing falls to the Communists without a fight. May 27, 1949: Communists take Shanghai against token resistance. August 1949: Communist columns speed westward, taking Xian and Lanzhou. September 1949: Beijing is again the capital of China. October 1, 1949: Mao Zedong announces the founding of the People’s Republic of China. He speaks from a reviewing stand atop the Gate of Heavenly Peace, the main entrance to the imperial palace at Beijing.

THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC: 1949–1998 With the Communist triumph, China again is united and free of foreign occupation. The new rulers rapidly consolidate their power; they move, too, to implement a radical vision of a new, egalitarian, and socialist society. The Communists limit the power of capitalists and landowners and begin a massive redistribution of wealth. They restrict foreign influences. They curb the press, publishers, and intellectuals. Nearly every aspect of Chinese life falls under government supervision and control. At the same time, the new government does begin to build. Within a year, China’s rampant, corrosive inflation is brought under control. With Russian technical assistance, roads, railroads, bridges, electric power complexes, factories, schools, and hospitals are constructed. In the countryside, land is at first taken from the landlords and parceled out among the peasantry, then taken under state control in a vast system of collectivized agriculture. Beginning in 1950, the Korean War draws China into the Cold War. North Korean Communists invade South Korea; the United States, fighting under the United Nations flag, pushes the invaders back to the Yalu River; Chinese “volunteers” cross the Yalu and attack the Americans. The fighting ends in a stalemate, but has long-term consequences: China and the United States are enemies, and the United States becomes the protector of Nationalist Taiwan. Mao Zedong is China’s undisputed paramount leader. In the late 1950s he launches what proves to be the terribly mismanaged and immensely destructive Great Leap Forward, a mass redeployment of the peasantry for industrial and public works projects. The result, euphemis-


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tically labeled the “Three Hard Years,” is widespread famine and related calamity. Estimates of the death toll range as high as 30 million. A few years later, Mao’s revolutionary whim touches off the chaotic and devastating Cultural Revolution. Tens of thousands of radical students mobilize to form Red Guards that terrorize China at all levels. Senior government officials are taken from their homes or offices, beaten, subject to public trials and humiliations, sometimes killed. When Mao decides he has seen enough revolution and reverses course, millions of Red Guards are “rusticated”—sent into the countryside for reeducation. With Mao’s death in 1976, China enters a new phase. New leadership under the pragmatic Deng Xiaoping eases government restrictions on economic life, takes steps toward a market economy, and courts foreign investment. The collectivist agricultural policy is reversed; farmers are encouraged to grow for profit. Small private businesses spring up in the cities and, perhaps more significantly, in the countryside as well. Rapid economic expansion brings new problems: serious ecological damage, widespread corruption, worker exploitation, unwanted foreign cultural influences, and—far worse from the leadership’s perspective—an explosive demand for the loosening of political controls. The “democracy” movement spreads, a challenge to the government that ends in the 1989 massacre at Tiananmen Square that horrifies the world. China pursues economic reform into the 1990s. The constitution is rewritten to describe China’s economic system as a “socialist market economy.” In 1978 there are no privately owned cars in the People’s Republic; in 1993 there are 1 million. Through it all, China’s Communist leadership enforces a rigid separation between economic reforms, which it consistently pursues, and political and cultural liberalization, which it ruthlessly suppresses. September 1949: A People’s Political Consul-

1950–1953: Communists carry out land re-

tative Conference drafts a constitution for the new Communist state. Under this constitution, the rights of freedom of speech, thought, assembly, publication, and religion are guaranteed—except for “political reactionaries.” October 1949: Communist party membership approaches 4.5 million. Mao Zedong is party chairman, now the most powerful position in China. The Central Committee and the smaller Politburo coordinate government policy; real power lies with the Politburo’s five-member standing committee: Mao, Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai, Zhu De, and Chen Yun. October 2, 1949: The Soviet Union recognizes the People’s Republic of China. December 16, 1949: Mao Zedong reaches Moscow, the first time in his life he has traveled outside China. Stalin ignores him at first but eventually approves a security treaty, $300 million in credits, and eventual Soviet withdrawal from Lushun (Port Arthur).

distribution and collectivization in South China. Around 40 percent of all cultivable land is seized and redistributed, though allotments are small, given the high rate of population to arable land: a family of five might receive one or two acres. The campaign frequently turns violent. As many as a million landlords are executed. 1950: The Soviets agree to send ten thousand technical advisers to help build heavy industrial plants in China. January 6, 1950: Britain recognizes the People’s Republic; China rejects the gesture in protest of Britain’s diplomatic ties with Taiwan. April 1950: Communist troops under Lin Biao occupy Hainan Island off the coast of southern China. June 25, 1950: Communist North Korean columns cross the 38th Parallel into South Korea. After initial setbacks, American forces, operating under the auspices of the United Nations, drive the invaders back across the

Political History

frontier and push north toward the Yalu River. October 1950: China invades Tibet, claiming to liberate the country from imperialists. October 19, 1950: U.S. troops take the North Korean capital, P’yongyang. October 25, 1950: The first of an estimated 250,000 Chinese “volunteers” under Peng Dehuai cross the Yalu into North Korea. Within a few weeks, Chinese columns will drive UN forces back to the 38th Parallel and briefly occupy Seoul. December 1950: Government freezes foreign business assets in China. On December 28 all U.S. property in China is expropriated. Many foreign businesses are pressured into selling out at low prices. May 23, 1951: China formally absorbs Tibet. Summer 1951: Communists move against exNationalists and other “subversives” who stayed behind in China after the Liberation. Estimates of executions range into the hundreds of thousands, with an equal number of former Nationalists sent to labor camps. The campaign in Guangdong province claims to net 52,000 bandits and 89,000 other criminals; 500,000 rifles are collected. More than 28,000 are executed. Late 1951: Communists open the Three-Anti Campaign against corruption, waste, and obstructionist bureaucracy. The targets are Communist Party members, bureaucrats, and factory and business managers. February–June 1952: The government’s FiveAnti Campaign targets capitalists suspected of bribery, tax evasion, theft, cheating on government contracts, and stealing economic information from the state. Business leaders are forced into group criticism sessions and made to confess past wrongdoing. In April in Shanghai, people’s committees investigate and “criticize” seventy thousand Shanghai businessmen. On confession, they are forced to pay restitution. In practice, this often means turning over their assets to the state. The campaign tightens the Communist Party’s control of business and the labor movement.


1953–1957: The government’s Five-Year Plan

calls for quadrupling China’s steel output and doubling production of electric power and cement. Most of the plan’s targets will be reached or exceeded. 1953: A census puts China’s population at 582.6 million. Communist Party membership totals 6.1 million. July 27, 1953: Armistice ends the Korean War after two years of stalemate. China’s casualties are 700,000–900,000, including a son of Mao Zedong. The war deeply damages China-U.S. relations, which will take a generation to recover. 1954: Government administers China through twenty-one provinces, five autonomous regions, and two municipalities (Beijing and Shanghai). Approximately 2,200 county governments supervise 1 million Communist Party branches in towns, villages, factories, schools, and army units. December 1954: United States and Taiwan sign mutual defense treaty. 1955: The government population registration system makes free movement difficult. Most peasants are bound to their native villages. Registration categories are hereditary (passing through the male line), so the child of a peasant has peasant registration, and so do his children. Spring 1955: Under Foreign Minister Zhou Enlai, China takes a leading role in the Bandung Conference in Indonesia with a call for “peaceful coexistence” and African-Asian solidarity. Zhou also announces that the People’s Republic would “strive for the liberation of Taiwan by peaceful means so far as it is possible.” 1956: Deng Xiaoping (1904–1997) becomes general secretary of the Communist Party. May 2, 1956: At a closed party session, Mao Zedong proposes a “Hundred Flowers Campaign” seeking criticism of the Communist Party. 1957: U.S. announces it will deploy Matador missiles in Taiwan. They are capable of delivering atomic warheads on Chinese targets.


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Late April 1957: Mao overrides hardliners’ op-

position to launch the Hundred Flowers Campaign. May 1–June 7, 1957: When it comes, the Hundred Flowers criticism proves far more than Mao Zedong bargained for. Student protests erupt in Beijing and many other cities. Thoroughly alarmed, Mao cancels the campaign. June–December 1957: In the Communist Party’s Anti-Rightist campaign that follows the abortive Hundred Flowers, 300,000 people are branded as rightists and subjected to various forms of persecution, including jail and exile to hard labor in the countryside. November 2–21, 1957: Mao Zedong leads a Chinese delegation to the Soviet Union, his second and last visit there. The Soviets promise the Chinese a prototype atomic bomb and assistance in making their own. The Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev will later withdraw the bomb offer. Late 1957: At Mao Zedong’s direction, Communist Party prepares to launch the Great Leap Forward. It opens with a new round of agricultural collectivization—the merging of large collectives into giant communes. August 23–October 6, 1958: Chinese forces bombard the Nationalist-held islands of Quemoy and Matsu. Our revolutions are like battles. After a victory, we must at once put forward a new task. In this way, cadres and the masses will forever be filled with revolutionary fervor, instead of conceit. Indeed, they will have no time for conceit. Mao Zedong (1958)

Autumn 1958: With millions of farm laborers

redeployed for Yellow River flood control and other large public works projects, crops are neglected and much of the harvest is left to rot in the fields. December 1958: Mao Zedong steps down as head of state. He will be replaced in the spring of 1959 by Liu Shaoqi (1898–1969),

the author of “How to Be a Good Communist.” Mao retains title of chief of the Communist Party and remains the most powerful and prestigious of China’s leaders. 1959–1962: A series of poor harvests, mostly attributable to mismanagement of the Great Leap Forward (1958–1961), leads to widespread famine. As many as 30 million perish in what the government calls the “Three Hard Years” period. March 10–23, 1959: Tibetans rise in rebellion. China quells the outbreak, but an underground insurgency continues with U.S. backing. July 1959: In a private letter to Mao Zedong, Defense Minister Peng Dehuai sharply criticizes Great Leap Forward policies. Mao makes the letter public, denounces Peng and strips him of his posts. Lin Biao (1907– 1971) succeeds Peng as defense minister. Though he supports Mao, Deng Xiaoping also questions the Great Leap Forward. October 21, 1959: Chinese and Indian forces clash in the border region of Ladakh. Late 1950s: Government tears down the ancient walls of Beijing to improve the flow of traffic. The area to the south of the Imperial Palace is cleared for the expansion of Tiananmen Square. A massive Soviet-style Great Hall of the People is built on one side of the square; a hundred-foot-tall Monument to the Martyrs of the People glorifies China’s revolutionary heroes. 1960: Communists assign the “remolded” Puyi, the last emperor, a job in a machine repair shop at a botanical garden in Beijing. September 1960: The Soviet Union withdraws all 1,390 advisors and technicians working in China, bringing the Sino-Soviet split, developing for two years, fully into the open. 1961: Communist Party membership rises to 17 million. September 24, 1962: In a speech, Mao Zedong launches the Socialist Education Movement. It calls for a renewed emphasis on class warfare.

Political History October 20, 1962: After renewed clashes in

disputed frontier areas, China launches a full-scale offensive along the China-India border. November 20, 1962: China declares a unilateral cease-fire in the Indian frontier war and withdraws from the disputed territories it had occupied. February 1, 1964: Lin Biao launches a “learn from the army” campaign featuring Lei Feng, a selfless People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldier who is killed when a truck backs over him. The posthumous “discovery” of Lei’s diary is offered as a guide for all a Communist should be. August 6, 1964: China protests U.S. bombing of North Vietnam in retaliation for the Tonkin Gulf incidents. October 16, 1964: China successfully tests its own atomic bomb. June 1, 1965: Lin Biao orders all ranks and insignia abolished in the People’s Liberation Army. May 1966: With encouragement from Mao Zedong and his wife, Jiang Qing (1914–1991), radical university students in Beijing and elsewhere rise against their faculty and administration, triggering what Mao dubs the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. The precipitating factor of the Cultural Revolution is Wu Han’s play The Dismissal of Hai Rui, which is regarded as an allegorical critique of Mao. The backdrop is Mao’s belief in continuing revolution, his anxiety that he is losing control of the Communist Party, and his dissatisfaction with policies that encourage private farming, incentives in industry, and other “revisions” of MarxistLeninist doctrine. With Lin Biao, Jiang Qing, and other radical allies, he touches off a cataclysm. May 16, 1966: The so-called 16 May Circular sets up a Cultural Revolution Group to direct the revolution. Dominated by Jiang Qing and other radicals, it reports directly to Mao. The group is charged with attacking


bourgeois and revisionist ideas in the party, government, army, and cultural affairs. May 25, 1966: Radicals at Beijing University put up a wall poster criticizing the university administration for following liberal policies. The critiques spread to campuses throughout China. June–July 1966: Tens of thousands of students leave school to join the Red Guards. With encouragement from Jiang Qing and others, they are incited to criticize university, party, and government leaders. Party moderates try unsuccessfully to control the students through work teams sent onto the campuses (an effort Mao dubs “white terror”), and by forming their own Red Guard units in the hope of coopting the movement. July 16, 1966: Mao Zedong, seventy years old, takes his famous Yangtze River swim, intended to show he has the health and political vigor needed to lead the Cultural Revolution. Early August 1966: Packed with Red Guards, a hastily called meeting of the Central Committee adopts a resolution urging China’s youth to criticize “those persons in authority who are taking the capitalist road.” August 18–November 26, 1966: A series of mass rallies in Beijing brings together 13 million Red Guards from throughout China. Mao himself, wearing a red armband, presides over some of the rallies. The guards are urged to attack the “four olds”—old ideas, old culture, old customs, and old habits. Red Guards campaign against smoking, drinking, and “the bourgeois keeping of crickets, fish, cats, and dogs.” Shopkeepers are coerced into adopting revolutionary names for their shops. One Red Guard group proposes that the red traffic light should henceforth signal go rather than stop. More seriously, old buildings, temples, churches, art objects, and the dwellings of “revisionists” are destroyed. Authority figures come under physical attack; thousands of intellectuals are beaten, tortured, and killed. October–December 1966: In speeches and


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editorials, the Cultural Revolution Group criticizes the Communist Party for resisting the revolution and calls for an assault on the party establishment. Red Guards are urged to target Liu Shaoqi, Deng Xiaoping, and other senior officials. Only Mao Zedong is to be exempt. January 6, 1967: Red Guards rally in Shanghai; municipal government officials are removed from office and the radicals take over. Authorities are forced to march in the streets wearing dunce caps and carrying placards detailing their crimes; many are arrested and beaten. In similar coups elsewhere, known as the “January power seizures,” Red Guards attempt to take over party organizations throughout China. January 23, 1967: The Central Committee authorizes the Shanghai seizure of power from “capitalist roaders.” At the same time, PLA units are mobilized to restore order in Shanghai and other cities. February 1967: Mao Zedong and his allies issue a set of directives, known as the February Adverse Current, intended to curb the excesses of the Cultural Revolution. Mao criticizes the use of violence, even the dunce caps. But when senior party leaders attack the idea of the Cultural Revolution, Mao rescinds some of the crackdown measures. June 17, 1967: China explodes its first hydrogen bomb. On the railroad tracks we are headed for, no sign yet of any tracks. Where the mine I’m headed for will be drilled nothing yet but desert land. . . . But what isn’t there will surely come to be, our splendid dreams cannot fail. “Far Journey,” poem by Shao Yanxiang (b. 1933)

Summer 1967: Red Guards in Beijing seize

Liu Shaoqi, China’s head of state, and beat him in front of crowds. He will die of complications from the beatings in 1969. July 20, 1967: PLA forces restoring order in

Wuhan seize two radical Red Guard leaders. In response, Jiang Qing’s Cultural Revolution Group calls on the Red Guards to take power from the “capitalist roaders” in the army. The so-called Wuhan Incident ushers in the most violent phase of the Cultural Revolution. August 1967: Deng Xiaoping faces a Red Guard public trial. He takes off his hearing aid during the harangue. From 1968 to 1973 Deng will live quietly under house arrest in Jiangxi province. September 1967: Mao Zedong announces a “strategic plan” to bring the Cultural Revolution he has unleashed to a conclusion. October 17, 1967: Puyi, the last emperor, dies. July 1968: Mao Zedong orders an end to Red Guard violence to stave off a civil war. The People’s Liberation Army gradually restores order. There are purges: the investigation of the so-called May 16 Group (a radical plot said to be aimed at Zhou Enlai; it may never have existed) ends with many executions. December 22, 1968: Mao Zedong calls for educated young people to be sent into the country—rusticated—for reeducation by peasants and workers. March–June 1969: Russian and Chinese forces clash along their long shared border. December 22, 1969: The United States partially lifts trade embargo on the People’s Republic. 1970: China’s population is 880 million, up from 630 million in 1957. April 10–17, 1971: A U.S. table tennis team tours China. “Ping-pong diplomacy” will lead to a thaw in relations between the two countries. July 9–11, 1971: Henry Kissinger, a senior adviser to U.S. president Richard Nixon, meets privately with Zhou Enlai to plan a Nixon visit to China. On July 15 the visit is announced. September 13, 1971: Defense Minister Lin Biao, implicated in a mysterious plot to murder Mao Zedong, dies in the crash of an aircraft that allegedly is carrying him into exile

Political History

in the Soviet Union. A longtime Mao loyalist, Lin is the former commander of victorious civil war armies and the compiler of the best-selling “little red book”—the Quotations of Chairman Mao. October 25, 1971: The People’s Republic of China is admitted to the United Nations; Taiwan is ousted. February 21–28, 1972: Richard Nixon visits China. February 28, 1972: The United States and China issue the “Shanghai Communique´.” It lays out positions of the two countries on Taiwan—China affirms Taiwan is a breakaway province it means to recover—and calls for normalization of U.S.-China relations. March 1973: Zhou Enlai brings back into government Deng Xiaoping and other senior officials disgraced during the Cultural Revolution. September 1973: The president of France, Georges Pompidou, is the first western European head of state to visit China. January 1975: The rehabilitated Deng Xiaoping becomes first vice premier with day-today responsibility for running the country. April 5, 1975: Chiang Kai-shek dies. His son Chiang Ching-kuo succeeds him as ruler of the Nationalist republic in Taiwan. Chiang Ching-Kuo will lift martial law, begin to open the political process, and permit visits to the mainland. January 8, 1976: Zhou Enlai dies. April 4–5, 1976: A mass act of homage to the late Zhou Enlai in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square turns into an antigovernment rally. Hundreds of the estimated 100,000 protesters are arrested. April 7, 1976: Mao Zedong again strips Deng Xiaoping of his offices. September 9, 1976: Mao Zedong dies. Government declares a week-long period of mourning. Mao’s successor is Hua Guofeng (born 1921). October 6, 1976: Hua Guofeng orders the arrest of Mao’s widow Jiang Qing and her radical associates Zhang Chunqiao, Wang


Hongwen, and Yao Wenyuan. Vilified as the “Gang of Four,” they are accused of disrupting the economy, undermining education, and sabotaging foreign trade, among other crimes. July 1977: Deng Xiaoping is restored to all his offices. 1978–1980: Deng Xiaoping wins a power struggle over Hua Guofeng and emerges as China’s paramount leader. Deng’s marketoriented economic policies trigger a boom. Average incomes will triple by the early 1990s; implementation of the “responsibility system,” which turns land back to individual peasant households, will help an estimated 170 million peasants climb out of extreme poverty. March 1978: Government announces the Four Modernizations in agriculture, industry, national defense, science, and technology. A new ten-year plan sets a target of 10 percent annual growth in industry and 4–5 percent in agriculture. November–December 1978: The first “big character” posters calling for political freedom are pasted onto what becomes known as the Democracy Wall along the western edge of the Forbidden City in Beijing. What is true democracy? It means the right of the people to choose their own representatives [who will] work according to their will and in their interests. Only this can be called democracy. Furthermore, the people must also have the power to replace their representatives any time so that these representatives cannot go on deceiving others in the name of the people. “Fifth Modernization,” wall poster by dissident Wei Jingsheng (Beijing, December 1978)

December 5, 1978: The electrician/dissident

Wei Jingsheng (born 1949) puts up a poster calling for a “fifth modernization”—democracy. Without it, he argues, Deng Xiaoping’s Four Modernizations are hollow. December 15–22, 1978: The Central Com-


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mittee announces China and the United States will establish full diplomatic relations on January 1, 1979, and exchange ambassadors on March 1, 1979. The committee also endorses the government’s emphasis on economic modernization, with tentative moves toward a free market, over Maoist class warfare. 1979: Government reopens law schools (private practice of law has been banned since 1949) and reestablishes the Ministry of Justice, abolished in 1959. By 1982 5,500 lawyers are working full-time in China. Mid-January 1979: Government begins crackdown on the Democracy Wall movement. “A few little sheets of paper and a few lines of writing, a few shouts and they’re frightened out of their wits,” a dissident says of the authorities. January 28, 1979: Deng Xiaoping arrives in Washington for meetings with President Carter. February 17, 1979: People’s Liberation Army columns invade northern Vietnam in a dispute over the border and over Vietnamese involvement in Cambodia’s civil war. March 5–16, 1979: After sharp reverses, PLA forces withdraw from northern Vietnam. March 1979: Most of the Democracy Wall leaders are in jail; Wei Jingsheng will be sentenced to fifteen years in prison. April 1979: U.S. Congress passes the Taiwan Relations Act. It reaffirms the American commitment and guarantees a flow of defensive weaponry to Taiwan. April 1, 1979: Government rescinds the right to hang wall posters. November 1980: Trial of the Gang of Four (there are actually ten defendants) begins. The gang is accused of “persecuting to death” 34,800 people during the Cultural Revolution and framing and persecuting a precisely tabulated 729,511 citizens. January 25, 1981: Gang of Four sentences are handed down: Jiang Qing and Zhang Chunqiao are condemned to death, but with a two-year stay during which they can recant

and thus avoid the executioner. The others are given prison terms. July 1981: The Communist Party Central Committee passes a preliminary judgment on Mao Zedong: he is praised for his wartime leadership and his intellectual contributions, but blamed for much of what has gone awry in China since 1956, particularly the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. Overall, the committee concludes Mao was right 70 percent of the time, wrong 30 percent. July 1982: Census shows China’s population exceeds 1 billion. For political purposes, the count includes Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau. January 25, 1983: Death sentences of Jiang Qing and Zhang Chunqiao are commuted to life imprisonment. 1984–1987: China negotiates arms agreements with Iran worth $2.5 billion and with Iraq worth $1.5 billion. May 7, 1984: With increasing worker mobility in consequence of economic reforms making it difficult for the government to keep track of its citizens, China mandates identity cards for everyone sixteen and older. September 26, 1984: Britain and China sign agreement for Hong Kong’s reversion to Chinese sovereignty on July 1, 1997. The pact contains a guarantee of economic autonomy for the colony—the “one country, two systems” arrangement. 1985: As Sino-Soviet relations thaw, the two countries reopen consulates in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg again) and Shanghai. April–June 1985: China moves to reduce its 4.2 million-strong armed forces by 25 percent. The People’s Liberation Army reintroduces insignia of rank to distinguish officers and enlisted personnel. 1986: Taiwan legalizes political parties. 1986: China adopts a revised Code of Civil Procedure. Around twenty thousand lawyers are practicing in China. October 12–18, 1986: Britain’s Queen Elizabeth ii visits China.

Political History December 5 and 9, 1986: An estimated three

thousand students at the University of Science and Technology in Hefei protest campus issues and manipulated local elections. Student protests also break out in Wuhan and Beijing. December 19–21, 1986: Thirty thousand students, with as many non-student supporters, rally in Shanghai. Protests spread to Kunming, Chongqing, Tianjin, and Beijing. January 1987: Communist hardliners launch a crackdown on the student protest movement. They blame physicist Fang Lizhi, writer Liu Binyan, and other older intellectuals for fanning the flames of student dissent. Fang and Liu are dismissed from the Communist Party; Fang is stripped of his teaching and research positions. January 16, 1987: Hu Yaobang, more tolerant of dissent than other senior leaders, is made the scapegoat for the student uprising; he resigns as secretary-general of the Communist Party. October–November 1987: The 13th Communist Party Congress reaffirms Deng Xiaoping’s liberal economic policies. Deng resigns from the Central Committee, though he remains China’s most powerful leader; Zhao Ziyang, a supporter of Deng’s market reforms, is elected party secretary-general. Four new members, including Li Peng (born 1928) are elected to the Politburo, and Li Peng becomes acting premier. 1988: Government releases figures showing that 150,000 Communist Party members were punished in 1987 for graft or abuse of power. January 13, 1988: Chiang Ching-kuo dies. A native Taiwanese, Lee Teng-hui, will become president of Taiwan and head of the Guomindang. Lee soon lifts all travel restrictions to the People’s Republic. By May ten thousand Taiwanese a month are visiting relatives on the mainland. April 9, 1988: Li Peng is confirmed as premier. April 15–22, 1989: Students mass in Beijing’s


Tiananmen Square to honor the recently deceased Hu Yaobang. (He died of natural causes.) Student leaders demand the right of political participation, increases in education spending, and disclosure of government officials’ income. April 24, 1989: Students declare a boycott of classes. Government acts to bring nonstop Tiananmen rallies under control. Deng Xiaoping calls the protests “an episode of turmoil”—a euphemism for counterrevolution. May 4, 1989: An estimated 100,000 students rally in Beijing to mark the seventieth anniversary of the 1919 demonstrations that launched the May Fourth Movement. May 13, 1989: Students in Tiananmen Square begin a hunger strike. Some three thousand students will participate. May 15, 1989: Mikhail Gorbachev arrives in Beijing, marking an end to the thirty-year Sino-Soviet split. Continuing student protests deeply embarrass the government during Gorbachev’s three-day visit. May 17, 1989: One million prodemocracy supporters rally in Beijing. May 20, 1989: With Deng Xiaoping pressing for a hard line, the government proclaims martial law in Beijing. Premier Li Peng calls the protesters counterrevolutionaries. May 21, 1989: A million people massing in the streets of Beijing successfully block PLA troops trying to approach Tiananmen Square. May 29, 1989: Student protesters put up thirty-seven-foot-high foam plastic statue of the “goddess of liberty” near a giant portrait of Mao Zedong in Tiananmen Square. June 3, 1989: Troops begin to close in on Tiananmen Square. June 3–4, 1989: Troops and armored vehicles move against the Tiananmen Square protesters. Estimates of the dead range from one thousand to ten thousand. Li Peng and other hardliners press for the arrest and jailing of hundreds of student leaders. Fang Lizhi, Liu Binyan, and other dissidents escape into exile abroad.


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Later in June the United States will suspend arms sales to China in protest of the massacre, and the World Bank will defer action on $780 million in loan requests. June 4, 1989: PLA units kill three hundred prodemocracy protesters in Chengdu. June 9, 1989: In a speech, Deng Xiaoping attacks the protesters and brands them as rebels. He also calls for renewed economic growth along free market lines. January 11, 1990: Government lifts martial law in Beijing. On January 18 nearly six hundred student leaders are freed after they “confess and reform.” May 1991: Taiwan renounces the use of force to retake the Chinese mainland. Late 1993: The dissident Wei Jingsheng is released from prison. He resumes his political activity at once and is again arrested. May 1994: The Clinton administration acts to separate trade and human rights issues in U.S. relations with China. This opens the way for renewal of China’s most favored nation trade status. January 1995: Communist Party secretary Jiang Zemin calls for state visits, an end to hostility, and reunification of China and Taiwan. In March, the Taiwanese reject the overture. June 16, 1995: China recalls its ambassador in protest of the U.S. decision to grant a visa to Taiwan’s president. June–August 1995: China conducts missile tests near Taiwan. December 1995: Prodemocracy activist Wei Jingsheng is found guilty of “counterrevolution” and sentenced to fourteen years in prison. March 1996: The National People’s Congress revises China’s criminal code, limiting detentions without charge to thirty days and

giving defendants speedier access to lawyers. Human rights groups say the changes do not go far enough. March 23, 1996: China conducts military exercises near Taiwan as the island turns out for its first direct presidential vote. February 19, 1997: Deng Xiaoping, China’s paramount leader, dies. He has not appeared in public since 1994. Jiang Zemin (born 1926) is president; Li Peng retains his post as premier. July 1, 1997: Britain formally returns Hong Kong and the New Territories to China. October 27–November 2, 1997: President Jiang Zemin visits the mainland United States (after a one-day stopover in Hawaii), the first such high-level interaction between the two countries since the events in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Although he is met by protesters at almost every occasion, President Zemin manages to win over many Americans by his benign manner and his obvious admiration for America’s history. November 16, 1997: China releases political activist Wei Jingsheng from prison and sends him at once into exile. Wei arrives in Detroit, Michigan, the next day. 1998: According to a human rights report from Amnesty International, China detained more than 200,000 people without charge and without trial in 1997. Amnesty says it has documented widespread torture in prison and police cells and unfair trials. January 25–July 3, 1998: Returning President Jiang Zemin’s visit to the United States in 1997, President William Clinton visits China and participates in official welcome ceremonies at Tiananmen Square. Although nothing substantive comes out of this meeting, it does signal a change in relations between the two countries and a willingness to forget China’s past actions.

China a r t s , c u l t u r e , t hou g h t , an d re l i g i o n

PREHISTORIC AND LEGENDARY CHINA: 1,960,000–2208 5,000–3,000 B . C .: The Yangshao culture pro-

duces a distinctive painted pottery, reddish with black designs. Some Yangshao pottery vessels are marked with signs representing makers or owners, indicating that a form of proto-writing is emerging here. In the settled farming areas below the south bend of the Yellow River, villagers decorate their painted pottery jars with animal and plant designs. 4000–2000 B . C .: The Lungshan culture makes a pottery that is thin, black, and bur-

nished. At Erlitou, remains from about 2000 b.c. include palace foundations, stone carvings, bronze and ceramic ritual vessels, royal burials, and even human sacrifices. 2698–2599 B . C .: Legend credits the Yellow Emperor’s recordkeeper, Cangxie, with inventing the written Chinese language. 2300–2200 B . C .: Tradition claims that the Yaodian (Canon of Yao), outlining the principal events of the third millennium b.c., is written down at this time, but modern scholars agree that it was written many centuries later.

THE THREE DYNASTIES (XIA, SHANG, ZHOU): 2208–249 1700–1600 B . C .: The first bronze vessels ap-

pear. The Shang vessels are often used in sacrifices and burials. Possession of them is a sign of wealth. 1384–1111 B . C .: The Shang use oracle bones—inscribed cattle shoulder bones and turtle shells—for divination. Some 100,000 bones will be excavated at Anyang between 1927 and 1938. They reveal the ear-



liest known written form of the Chinese language, with some 1,500 characters deciphered. c. 1000 B . C .: The Chinese written vocabulary reaches three thousand characters. The first known Chinese poetry is believed to date from the Early Zhou dynasty. Poems from the Book of Songs (Shijing) are sung at important court ceremonials.


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c. 800–700 B . C .: Jars made from an early form

of porcelain are in use. 753 B . C .: Qin establishes its first corps of annalists to record state events. 551–499 B . C .: Lifespan of Kong Qiu; eventually the Chinese will refer to him as Kong Fuzi (Great Master Kung), but the Latinized version of this name, Confucius, is that by which he becomes known to the world at large. He is born in Lu (modern Shandong) into a family of the lower aristocracy. Longing for a return to the lost (and possibly imaginary) order and moral certainty of the Zhou, he will become China’s first moral philosopher and establish a lasting form of Chinese cultural thought. For Confucius, jen (goodness) is the leading principle of conduct. Yi (righteousness, duty, justice) and li (etiquette or ritual) are other cardinal virtues. Government, he says, should be based on ethics, not just practical politics. Each person has a role; if each performs his role, social stability is assured. Man is perfectible, Confucius teaches, can improve, and is morally educable. The Analects of Confucius are reconstructed conversations of the master with his disciples, recorded after his death. His thought will eventually be collected in the Four Books, the basic text of Confucianism from the Song to the twentieth century. 6th century B . C .: By tradition, the Dao De Jing (also known as Classic of the Way and Its Power) appears. Ascribed to the possibly legendary Laozi, it is regarded as the founding document of Daoism. Little is known of Laozi’s life. One legend has him leaving China for the west astride a purple buffalo. In any case, his philosophical system, with its emphasis on personal spiritual freedom, is a complete contrast to and a chief rival of Confucianism. Modern scholars believe the book may have been compiled in the early third century b.c. 536 B . C .: The first certain written laws appear in the state of Cheng. Punishments for vari-

ous infractions are inscribed on the sides of bronze vessels. 468–376 B . C .: Lifespan of Mozi, philosopher of the Warring States period and an early rival of Confucius. A “utilitarian” philosopher, he is interested in practical economic matters and is critical of extravagant funeral practices and other elaborate rituals. He advocates peaceful relations between competing Chinese states and decries war as wasteful. 384 B . C .: Qin officially prohibits the practice of human sacrifice. c. 370–c. 300 B . C .: The lifespan of Mengzi, known in the Western world as Mencius, the first important successor to Confucius in the same tradition; he studied with the master’s grandson. The “Second Sage” extends the Confucian notion that righteousness and a sense of duty are the mark of the true ruler. He goes on to state that the ruler who neglects his responsibilities—and these include providing his subjects with adequate living conditions—forfeits the loyalty of his people; the people thus have a right to revolution. Men are born virtuous, Mencius believes; they need only to recover their lost original goodness for the evil in the world to disappear. Like the Analects, the Mencius is a record of the philosopher’s conversations. 361 B . C .: Gongsun Yang (Lord Shang) is the supposed author of one of the two surviving treatises of the Legalist School of government. Legalism relies on the power of government to punish and reward, in contrast to the Confucian emphasis on ritual and the virtue of rulers. 310–220 B . C .: The lifespan of Xunzi, another important Confucian successor. His Xunzi is a set of essays on moral philosophy and government. c. 310 B . C .: The Zhuangzi, the second of the two founding tracts of Daoism, circulates. Its author is probably the philosopher Zhuangzi (369–286 b.c.). He argues, against Confucius, that efforts to improve the world are

Arts, Culture, Thought, and Religion

useless, even harmful. His philosophy emphasizes the spiritual freedom of the individual. He is a mystic, drawn to the limitless possibilities of the Dao, as opposed to the circumscribed potential of man. 280?–233 B . C .: Lifespan of Hanfeizi. A member of the Han ruling family, he is a leading


theoretician of the Legalist School. The turmoil of the Warring States period underlay his argument that strict laws and harsh punishments are necessary to preserve order. He is sent to Qin as a Han ambassador, imprisoned, and poisoned, but his theories will influence the Qin state.

Q I N D Y N A S T Y: 2 2 1 – 2 0 6


3d century B . C .: Qin bureaucrats extend Le-

212 B . C .: Using forced labor, perhaps as many

galist rule. Lord Shang defined it this way: “To club together and keep your mouth shut is good; to be alienated and spy on each other is to be a scoundrel. If you glorify the good, errors will be hidden; if you put scoundrels in charge, crime will be punished.” c. 219 B . C .: The chancellor Li Si oversees simplification of written characters and makes the written language uniform throughout the empire. c. 219 B . C .: The emperor establishes an academy of seventy scholars expert in all important areas of knowledge. 213 B . C .: The emperor orders Li Si to carry out a widespread Burning of the Books, including the archives of vanquished rival Warring States. The motive is to enforce a monopoly of learning for the imperial court; surviving material is available only to court academicians.

as 700,000 men, Emperor Zheng begins building a new throne hall and a tomb for himself in the Qin capital near modern Xian. Artists and craftsmen create some 7,500 life-size terracotta warriors to guard the burial site. 212 B . C .: Emperor Zheng orders the execution of 460 literati who question him or complain about his policies. He is alleged to have the scholars buried alive. Modern authorities doubt this version; they believe the literati were executed before burial. July–August 210 B . C .: Many of Emperor Zheng’s concubines and those who had worked on his tomb are buried with him in what is said to be one of the last recorded instances of human sacrifice in China. Also buried are the 7,500 terracotta soldiers.

H A N D Y N A S T Y: 2 0 2 B . C .: A government edict establishes shrines for the worship of the emperors’ ancestors. c. 180–117 B . C .: Lifespan of the poet Sima Xiangju; he develops the new genre of poetry or rhythmic prose known as fu. c. 175–105 B . C .: Lifespan of the Confucian scholar Dong Zhongshu, whose commentary on Spring and Autumn Annals contains an important series of short essays on political philosophy and a ruler’s place in the cos-


B.C. –A.D.


mos. His thought, a synthesis of Daoism, Legalism, and Confucianism, becomes perhaps the dominant Confucian position of the early Han. 122 B . C .: Liu An, a grandson of the first Han emperor, Gaodi, dies; he is the patron of the scholars who compiled the Daoist Huainanzi, one of the most important philosophical works of the Early Han. The work, a collection of essays on philosophy, though Daoist in outlook, refers to other schools and


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aims to synthesize previous Chinese thought. 110 B . C .: Emperor Wudi sets out for the sacred Mount Tai near Confucius’s birthplace to perform the feng and shan ceremonies dating from early Zhou. These rites are supposed to make him immortal and allow him to climb up to Heaven. 107 B . C .: Sima Qian (145?–90? b.c.) becomes the grand historian of Han. c. 99–c. 85 B . C .: Sima Qian completes his history of China up to the time of Emperor Wudi (beginning 141 b.c.), the Records of the Historian. His Records contain a year-byyear chronicle, imperial genealogies, essays on important subjects such as the economy and flood control, feng and shan ceremonial, and biographical studies; they will provide the model for the dynastic histories of later periods. Sima Qian suffers castration for defending an out-of-favor soldier. 40 B . C .: Reformists move to reduce the number of religious shrines in China, partly as an economy move. These were elaborate and expensive institutions; in the reign of Xuandi (74–49 b.c.), for example, 45,000 guards were on the shrines’ payroll, with another 12,000 employed as priests, cooks, and musicians. The last four decades of the century are a period of significant change in religious observance. Many shrines are abolished. Ceremonies are simplified and made more austere. Han leaders move to restore the older gods of the Zhou dynasty. Heaven, from whom the Zhou kings believed they had been given the authority to rule, becomes the supreme deity of the state cult of Han. The emperor is the Son of Heaven. He rules by the Mandate of Heaven. 31 B . C .: Emperor Chengdi takes part in services of the cults of Heaven and Earth at new shrines in the capital, Chang’an. 26 B . C .: The emperor orders copies of literary works to be forwarded to the capital from all the commanderies and kingdoms. The purpose is to compare different versions of a text

and produce a “correct” edition on silk or wooden scrolls for the imperial library. 7 B . C .: In renewed economy moves, government begins a new campaign to reduce the number of religious shrines, including the Heaven and Earth cults. 3 B . C .: In a popular surge of religious feeling, the cult of the Queen Mother of the West sweeps across China. Scholars today regard it as a response to the political and dynastic insecurity of the last years of the Early Han. A . D . 5: Wang Mang restores the cults of Heaven and Earth. He convenes in the imperial capital of Chang’an an important scholarly conference on the classical texts, philology and divination. 48–119 or 120: Lifespan of the poet, scholar, and teacher Ban Zhao, one of a few women whose work has come down from premodern China. Her Nu Jie (Admonitions to Women) summarizes the Confucian feminine ideal. A good deal of her poetry survives, including the famous “Needle and Thread”: Chill autumn gleam of steel, Fine, straight, and sharp, You thrust your way in and gradually advance, So that things far apart are all strung into one. She also completes her brother Ban Gu’s History of Han, the first work to apply Sima Qian’s model to a single dynasty. 65: In concert with the continuing decay of Confucian values and a developing surge of popular religious Daoism, foreign merchants on the Silk Road introduce Buddhism to China. The Chinese are drawn to the Four Noble Truths of the Buddha, a near Indian contemporary of Confucius: Life is sorrowful; Sorrow is due to craving; Curbing craving dissolves sorrow; This is achieved through a life of discipline, meditation, and moral behavior that is fully open only to monks and wandering ascetics.

Arts, Culture, Thought, and Religion

The king of Chu, half-brother of the emperor, adopts Buddhist practices—the first documented mention of Buddhism in China. A cult of the Buddha is thought to be active in the capital, Luoyang, around this time. 79: Han emperor Zhangdi convenes a conference on the correct texts and interpretations of the Confucian classics. The historian Ban Gu edits the conference report, titled Comprehensive Discussions in the White Tiger Hall, a landmark of Confucian scholarship. c. 90: Buddhist monks establish a monastery at the imperial capital, Luoyang. 92: Implicated by his friendship with the Dou family in a plot against the emperor, the Han historian Ban Gu is arrested and executed. 100: A translation of the Indian Buddhist text Sutra in Forty-two Articles circulates in Luoyang. 2d century: Sculptors are fashioning fine bronze three-dimensional representations of familiar Han scenes. A well-known example: a Han official sits under an umbrella in a two-wheeled carriage; the horse in the shafts appears to be about to explode into a gallop. 121: China’s first dictionary is presented to the emperor. It contains nine thousand characters. 160: Student population of the imperial academy, where prospective government officials are trained, reaches thirty thousand. 166: The Cult of the Buddha is formally introduced at the imperial court in Luoyang. 175–183: The authorized correct texts of the Five Classics and the Analects are engraved in stone, evidently on some forty to fifty tablets. Fragments survive today.


180: The government creates a new univer-

sity styled the “School at the Gate of the Vast Capital” to train public officials. 184–215: In response to the spread of civil war in Han China, politico-religious groups flourish. Religious Daoism, with immortality as its central aim, becomes one of the two great clerical and salvationist religions of China, alongside Buddhism. Features of the Daoist political/utopian movements that spring to life include confession of sins, good deeds such as almsgiving, abstention from alcohol, and the legend of the immaculate conception of Laozi, who is deified as the messiah of the Great Peace. Daoist groups form protective societies in disturbed areas and carry out administrative and military as well as religious functions. The Five Pecks of Rice sect in Shanxi and Sichuan in the west, for example, establishes charity houses and other aid programs and rules effectively for four decades. In the east, the Yellow Turban rebellion rises against the imperial government in 184. While Five Pecks of Rice remains strong in the west through the end of the Han dynasty, warlords operating on behalf of the imperial court quickly subdue the Yellow Turbans and kill most of their leaders. 193: Large communities of Buddhist converts flourish in eastern China. Buddhists build a vast temple in the Chu capital of Pengcheng—it stands several stories high and can hold three thousand devotees. Later this year, the warlord Cao Cao sacks Pengcheng, driving a Buddhist community more than ten thousand strong south to the Yangtze, where the Buddha cult is thus introduced.

THREE KINGDOMS AND SIX DYNASTIES: 220–589 220–589: There is a distinct north-south split

during these centuries of disunion. A southern style develops in religious observance, manners, and dress. Women are more likely

to be in seclusion and concubinage in the south. Northern women have work and responsibility. Southerners cultivate rice and use sea fish; northerners tend their flocks


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and herds and grow millet and wheat. Southerners regard themselves as true heirs of Han civilization. Life is softer there. Northerners are a martial society, bred to warrior and hunter values; life is hard. c. 260: The acupuncturist Huangfu Mi is in the prime of his career. He is the author of the Classic of Acupuncture and Moxibustion, the earliest known treatise in the field. c. 290: The San Guo zhi (Record of the Three Kingdoms) is completed. It long stands as the accepted dynastic history of the period. 4th century: In a time of upheaval, Buddhism spreads rapidly throughout China, though Confucian ideas continue to shape the views of the elite on politics, society, ethics, and etiquette. Buddhism’s appeal lies in its offering of consolations and magical powers; Buddhist ideas and images open up new imaginative worlds for Chinese artists and thinkers. It appeals to common people as a comfort in times of distress. Non-Chinese invaders who settle permanently among the Chinese and adopt their ways accept Buddhism too. Buddhism becomes established in China in its Mahayana form, the Greater Vehicle, with its worship of many deities—the Buddha in various manifestations. Through translation of the sutras (traditional sermons and teachings of the Buddha and successor sages), the Chinese make major adaptations to the Buddhism of India, among them a change in the comparatively exalted position Buddhism gives to women and mothers. “The husband supports his wife,” for instance, becomes “The husband controls his wife.” 399–414: The Buddhist Faxian makes a long pilgrimage to India. He returns with Buddhist works that he translates for a Chinese audience. Early 5th century: With political power shared among many competing centers, Dao popular sects remain strong in the

countryside. They are descendants of the Yellow Turban and Five Pecks of Rice groups that rose in rebellion during the last decades of the Later Han dynasty. At the same time, religious Daoism, with its emphasis on immortality, gains among the elites of south China; in the north, Kou Qianzhi attempts to establish Daoism as the state religion. 403: The argument is presented at court that Buddhist monks should be exempted from bowing to the emperor. 471–499: Xiao, emperor of the Northern Wei, pursues an aggressive sinicization policy: languages other than Chinese are prohibited at court and newcomers are ordered to adopt Chinese surnames. Early 6th century: According to later tradition, Chan (in Japanese, Zen) Buddhism is introduced to China through Bodhidharma, an Indian sage who seeks an audience with Emperor Wudi (Liang dynasty), himself a Buddhist. Chan—the word derives from the Sanskrit for meditation—is distinctively Chinese in style. It is imparted and passed on not from a text but from an already enlightened mind, a teacher-student process that appeals to China’s Confucian tradition of thinker and disciples. Bodhidharma, the Chan patriarch, enters a monastery near Luoyang and passes years in silent meditation, his face to the wall. In Chan, the goal of meditation is enlightenment, in which all illusions are cleared away and an individual becomes fully aware of wisdom. Bodhidharma leaves this summary of Chan: “A special transmission outside the scriptures; no reliance upon words or letters; direct pointing to the very mind; seeing into one’s own nature.” 542: Tan Luan, born in 476, patriarch of the Buddhist Pure Land sect, dies. The Pure Land scripture holds that anyone who meditates on the Buddha Amida or calls upon his name will be reborn into his paradisicBud-

Arts, Culture, Thought, and Religion

dha-world. This will become one of the most important Chinese traditions of Buddhism in later periods. 574: Emperor Wudi (reigns 561–578) launches an effort to suppress Buddhist and Daoist religious practices in favor of Con-


fucian ritual. Temples, scriptures, and images are destroyed in Northern Zhou and clergy are forced to return to lay life. Sixth month, 578: With the death of Emperor Wudi, the proscription of Buddhism is relaxed to a degree.

S U I D Y N A S T Y: 5 8 9 – 6 1 8 Second month, 581: Among the first acts of

Emperor Wendi are the full restoration of rights to Buddhists and the rehabilitation of the Buddhist clergy. He also lifts the proscription of Daoists. Tenth month, 581: Emperor Wendi promulgates a New Code of laws and ordinances containing 1735 articles. It eases the severe punishments of earlier codes—the severed heads of criminals are no longer to be displayed, for example. “It is Our wish that men should have no disposition to trespass and that, the state having regular punishments, they be administered in accordance with the lofty principle of no animus. Perhaps the time is not far distant when . . . they are not used.” Despite the liberal tone of his laws, Wendi himself could intervene in the harshest manner, ordering capital punishments for comparatively minor crimes. “If the Emperor was displeased with someone,” one of his judges admits later, “[the courts] manipulated the procedure so that he was severely condemned.” 583: Wendi also simplifies the new Sui legal code, reducing the number of laws to around five hundred. This version, a synthesis of northern and southern legal practice and tradition, helps prepare the way for reunification. The revised code contains four types of punishment: the death penalty, deportation with forced labor, forced labor

only, and the bastinado (beating the soles of the feet). By tradition, the autumn equinox is the time for executions. 586: In an overture to Daoists, Wendi orders an inscribed monument to be set up at the supposed birthplace in Anhui of Laozi, whom religious Daoists claim as their spiritual ancestor. At the same time, he remains wary of Daoist subversive potential; his officials suppress alleged black magic and other dangerous practices. By the first years of the seventh century, there are 120 Buddhist establishments in the capital, to only ten Daoist. Sixth month, 589: Wendi orders the closing of most schools teaching the Confucian curriculum. 589–591: The emperor’s son, installed as the southern viceroy, conciliates Buddhists dispossessed during the upheaval to Daoists and Confucians. c. 600: The technique of block printing is perfected. 601: Wendi personally inaugurates a campaign to distribute Buddhist holy relics to shrines and reliquaries throughout the empire. 604: On accession, Emperor Yangdi announces that he will sponsor a revival of traditional Confucian learning. 606: The Sui initiates an effort to bring the music, instruments, and surviving performers of the era of disunion to the capital.


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T A N G D Y N A S T Y: 6 1 8 – 9 0 7 600–700: Chinese scribes are using inked

seals. 622: A river accident claims more than 80

percent of the Sui Imperial Library during its shipment from Luoyang to Chang’an. Only fourteen thousand titles survive. 624: The court astrologer Fu Yi, a nonbeliever, attacks Buddhism as foreign and urges the emperor to suppress it and force Buddhist priests and nuns to return to lay life. Fifth month, 626: Emperor Gaozu limits the numbers of Buddhist and Daoist temples in the capital; each prefecture is allowed one temple per faith. The numbers of priests and nuns are to be reduced. Three months later, after the emperor is removed in a palace coup, the measures are withdrawn. Historians speculate that Buddhist political power may have been behind the coup, in which Gaozu’s son ascends the Tang throne. 627: The new dynasty establishes a Directorate of the State University to oversee the schools. The school population rises from around four hundred to more than two thousand. Tang educational improvements draw scholars and students from the provinces to Chang’an. 628–632: Schools of calligraphy and law are founded in Chang’an. 629: Emperor Taizong orders execution as the penalty for illegal ordination of Buddhist monks. Tax evasion is usually the motive for illicit ordinations. 629–645: The Buddhist monk Xuanzang makes a pilgrimage to India. On his return, he translates Buddhist texts into Chinese and prepares an important account of his travels: Record of the Western Regions. 635: The Persian Olopan (or Alopen) introduces Nestorian Christianity, which has moved eastward from Syria, to China. The first Nestorian church will be built in Chang’an in 638.

637: An imperial edict gives Daoist monks

and nuns preference over Buddhist clergy in court ceremonies. 638–713: Lifespan of the Buddhist patriarch Huineng, the Sixth Patriarch of Chan; he is later credited with founding the Southern School, which offers the possibility of sudden enlightenment. The sterner Northern School emphasizes gradual progress toward enlightenment through the discipline of meditation. Huineng is responsible for the sutra called the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch. In it, he suggests that no one discipline or posture will bring enlightenment. “The way is realized through the mind,” he teaches. “What should it have to do with a sitting posture?” Buddhism makes a significant contribution to Tang artistic achievement, both as an inspiration to artists and in its creation of devotional works of art such as the 97,000 Buddhist images at the Longmen Grottoes in Luoyang. 651: An Arab mission introduces Islam to China. 669–759: Lifespan of the Tang poet and landscape painter Wang Wei. 680–750: Buddhist texts are printed from wood blocks. 694: Manichaeism is introduced to China. Its adherents are known as Light Worshippers. c. 700: A succession of Japanese embassies to China, one with as many as five hundred emissaries, send Chinese culture flowing eastward to Japan. Chinese calligraphy, Buddhist and Confucian thought, and governmental systems heavily influence Japanese institutions. 710: The historian Liu Zhiji (661–721) completes his Understanding of History, the first important study of historical writing in China. 711: A court memorial draws attention to how

Arts, Culture, Thought, and Religion

wealthy men evade their taxes by becoming ordained Buddhist monks and novices. After an investigation in 714, thirty thousand monks and nuns are ordered returned to lay life. 712–755: Xuanzong reigns in what will be recalled as the Golden Age of the Tang dynasty. He takes an intelligent interest in poetry, historical works and religion. The era is particularly noteworthy for the poetry known as shi. Strict rules of rhyme and meter govern this form of short lyric poetry, which often has a strong emphasis on nature. The best-known practitioners are Wang Wei (669–759), Li Bo (c. 700–762), Du Fu (712–770), Pai Chui (772–846), and Gao Shi (707–765), all members of the scholar/gentry class and holders of government appointments. Emperor Xuanzong is a patron of Daoism as well. He insists that the Laozi, the sacred Daoist text, be added to the curriculum in imperial civil service examinations. He and other Tang emperors are also interested in Daoism for its claims to make elixirs that confer immortality. Eleventh month, 725: Xuanzong carries out the most significant of all state rites, the feng and shan sacrifices, on the holy mountain of Tai in Shandong. 732: Showing favoritism to the Daoists, the government orders every prefecture to establish a temple in honor of Laozi. Within a few years, Emperor Xuanzong will set up special schools in the state university for Daoist studies. At the same time, the emperor is drawn to the new Esoteric Bud-


dhism that takes root during his reign. Doubtless part of the attraction is the use it makes of magical spells and incantations similar to those of Daoism. 768: Manichaeans are given permission to build a temple in Chang’an. 781: A stele describing the Nestorian Christian Church in China is put up in Chang’an. c. 800–907: A new verse form, ci, develops, possibly from folk ballads. It is a lyric with lines of irregular length set to a melody. 835: Printing is first mentioned in literature. 843: Government moves to suppress Manichaeans. 845: Gradual pressure against Buddhist economic power builds to full-scale repression. The emperor orders the destruction of thousands of shrines, monasteries, and temples and the confiscation of vast Buddhist wealth. As many as 250,000 priests and nuns are evicted from the monasteries and forced to return to lay life; many are killed. Government officials take control of the ordination of monks as means of curbing Buddhist growth. Religious persecutions afflict the Christian community; Judaism and Islam are less troubled. A new emperor, Xuanzong, comes to the throne in 846. He relaxes the persecutions, but some curbs remain on Buddhist templebuilding and ordination. 868: The earliest extant printed book, the Diamond Sutra, is struck off at Dunhuang. 916: The ruler of the Khitan Liao dynasty in North China establishes the first Confucian temple in Liao.

SONG DYNASTIES: 960–1279 960–1279: During this time, a powerful, te-

nacious upper class of scholar-officials, the product of the expanded civil service examination system, comes to dominate Chinese life. This gentry, drawn from the landowners

and degree-holders, everywhere forms a local elite, the governing link between the mass of the peasantry below and the court and high officialdom above. The gentry produces the familiar “scholar-gentleman,” who


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carries on Chinese cultural traditions: calligraphy, landscape painting, literature, and philosophical speculation. 990–1030: The Northern Song landscape painter Fan Guan is active. His landscape masterpiece is Travelers amid Mountains and Streams. c. 1010: Thirty thousand candidates take the prefectural civil service examinations each year. c. 1050–1100: These decades mark the rise to dominance of Confucianism as an intellectual and political movement associated with reformist politics. Adherents think of themselves as reviving the Confucianism of the classical age. c. 1050: Song China is the world’s first society to make widespread use of the printed book. Paper is made from plant fibers; printing is from wooden blocks. 1051–1107: Lifespan of the Northern Song painter Mi Fei. 1055: As part of the Confucian revival, the title of Holy Duke is granted the descendants of Confucius. 1056–1057: Su Dongpo (1037–1101; born Su Shi) passes the civil service examinations, joins the bureaucracy, and enters the Song literary world. A leading Confucian opponent of Wang Anshi’s New Laws of the 1070s, he is a poet, an essayist, and something of a satirist. Of his month-old boy child he writes: “All I want is a son who is doltish and dumb. No setbacks or hardships will obstruct his path to the highest courts.” 1070: The leading Confucian reformer Sima Guang (1019–1086) leaves government service. He devotes nineteen years to the preparation of his chronicle of dynastic rule, A Comprehensive Mirror for Aid in Government, which covers 1,300 years from the late Zhou to the founding of Song, but he returns briefly to public service in the last year of his life. In this work, the scholar identifies the causes for the rise and fall of dynasties and calls for established, regular bureaucratic and court procedures to assure stabil-

ity; he argues that history teaches that repairs to the existing order are more likely to be successful than a radical overturn. He is the leader of the political opposition to the radical reformer Wang Anshi. 1075: The “Cheng Brothers,” Cheng Hao (1032–1085) and Cheng Yi (1033–1107), leaders of the Neoconfucian movement, are influential. They explain the cosmos through the concepts of li (principle and pattern) and qi (vital energy and material force). Nothing, the brothers argue, can exist without both. c. 1095: The yearly number of prefect civil service exam candidates reaches eighty thousand. 12th–13th centuries: The custom of footbinding of women, first practiced among dancers in the tenth or eleventh century, spreads to China’s upper classes. The Southern Song tightly bind the feet of five- and six-year-olds to keep them from growing; the goal is to make women’s movements more dainty. 1100–1126: The penultimate Northern Song emperor, Huizong, reigns as the most cultured of the Song rulers. A painter and a patron of painting, his imperial collection contains six thousand works of art. He establishes a flourishing Academy of Painting before the dynasty collapses amid the Jurchen invasion. 1130: Chan and Pure Land Buddhist sects flourish in North China state of Jin, as they do also in the Southern Song. The Jin government strictly regulates religious life. In this year, Jin rules that monks may not be ordained without government authorization. 1130–1200: Lifespan of the scholar Zhu Xi, a leading Neoconfucian. He synthesizes the major thinkers of the Neoconfucian School. He selects the Four Books as the essence of Confucianism: the Analects of Confucius himself; the book of Mencius (c. 370–c. 300 b.c.), Confucius’s leading successor; the Doctrine of the Mean; and the Great Learning, chapters from one of the ancient ritual

Arts, Culture, Thought, and Religion

classics that he elevates to the status of an independent work. Zhu Xi’s commentaries on the Four Books will become the official standard for civil service examinations in the Yuan dynasty and thereafter. 1138: The late emperor Huizong’s Academy of Painting is reestablished on the Western Lake in the Southern Song capital of Hangzhou. 1142: National University is founded in Kaifeng; it shortly moves to Hangzhou. 1161: Monks lead uprising in modern Hebei, possibly touched off by the Jin state’s repression of religion. 1163: A synagogue is built in Jin Kaifeng, probably by Jews who reach China via the


caravan routes from Persia. 1188: Jin proscribes the heterodox Buddhist

Dhuta sect, which had gained widespread adherence among the merchant and artisan classes. c. 1190–1224: Lifespan of the landscape painter Ma Yuan; he is associated with the Academy of Painting in Hangzhou. c. 1200: Liang Kai paints Patriarchs of the Chan (Zen) Sect. 1241: Emperor declares the late Confucian Zhu Xi has “illuminated the Way” and orders government students to study his commentaries on the Four Books. 1270: The National University in Hangzhou enrolls 1,716 students.

Y U A N D Y N A S T Y: 1 2 7 9 – 1 3 6 8 1269: Khubilai attempts to impose a universal

script, based on Tibetan and consisting of a forty-one-letter alphabet. Though it is a superior script for writing premodern Mongolian, it does not displace the Uyghur script in use up until that time. 1271: The Yuan emperor adopts a new legal code, incorporating some Mongol customs. The code is comparatively lenient; capital crimes total 135, fewer than half the number in the old Song code. He also restores traditional Confucian court rituals, promotes translation of the Confucian classics into Mongolian and makes overtures to Buddhist and Daoist religious groups as well. 1274–1292: The Venetian traveler Marco Polo is resident in China. His Travels will introduce educated Europe to advanced Chinese civilization. 1275–1279: Mongols complete their legal classification of Chinese society with the addition of a fourth class—the newly conquered southern Chinese. The three earlier classifications, in descending order, are the Mongols, Western Asians, and Chinese and others permanently settled in North China. 1280–1354: Lifespan of the scholar-painter

Zhu Wen. Finding government service under the Mongols not to his taste, he supports himself by fortunetelling. 1281: Yuan cracks down on Daoists, ordering that all Daoist texts except for the Laozi be destroyed. c. 1285: An estimated 400,000 artisans are employed in government workshops and factories. 1285: Sangha authorizes restoration of Buddhist temples and monasteries. The monk Yang Lanjianjia ransacks Song imperial tombs to raise money for the work. Yang is said to have taken 1,700 ounces of gold, 6,800 ounces of silver, 111 jade vessels, and other valuables from 101 Song tombs. 1286: Khubilai Khan recruits the brilliant Song scholar Zhao Mengfu (1254–1322), who reluctantly agrees to quit Hangzhou and journey north to Beijing. “Each person lives his life in this world according to his own times,” he tells his disapproving friends. Zhao becomes a leading exponent of Confucian values at the Yuan court. 1291: With Buddhist resurgence, more than 200,000 monks serve 42,318 Buddhist temples in China.


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1292: The Italian Christian missionary Gio-

vanni Montecorvino attempts to spread Christianity in China. He will become archbishop of Beijing. 1323: Yuan adopts a new law code that incorporates new laws and regulations introduced since the beginning of the dynasty. Spring 1329: Wenzong establishes the Academy of the Pavilion of the Star of Literature for the purpose of carrying out “tasks relating

to the transmission of high culture to the Mongolian imperial establishment.” Among other things, the academy is a training school for sons of high-ranking Mongols. May 1330: Scholars of the Academy of the Pavilion begin compiling the Grand Canon for Governing the World, containing all major documents and laws since the founding of the Yuan dynasty; it will take thirteen months to complete.

M I N G D Y N A S T Y: 1 3 6 8 – 1 6 4 4 1368: The first Ming emperor founds the im-

perial academy for translators. Students are drawn from the sons and relatives of government officials; local schools refer sons of commoners for study at the academy. Taizu introduces the system of examinations known as the “eight-legged essays” for explication of the traditional Confucian canon of the Four Books and Five Classics. 1369: Taizu summons eleven Muslim astronomers to the capital to reform the Chinese calendar. 1382: The emperor Taizu, accused of favoring Buddhist teachings, orders sacrifices for Confucius throughout the empire. He evidently believes the three great teachings— Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism— can be synthesized into one ethical doctrine. 1407: More than two thousand scholars of the National University and the imperial Hanlin Academy finish editing and compiling a massive work that claims to incorporate the full range of classical learning. Titled the Great Literary Repository of the Yong Le Reign, it contains material on the classical texts, history, ritual, law, military affairs, philosophy, religion, plants and animals, medicine, astronomy, geography, and literature. 1417: The set of selections from orthodox Confucian texts known as the Great Compendium of the Philosophy of Human Nature is published. Together with the Great Compendium of the Five Classics and Four Books

of 1415, it becomes the official standard of Ming learning. 1427: The emperor Xuande orders a foundry for fine bronze and copper vessels to be established. Sixty-four artisans are assigned to work there. Among other items, they cast the famous Ming incense-burners. 1436: The primer titled Newly Compiled Four Character Glossary is published. 1450–1457: Ming cloisonne´ vessels and containers feature rich blues, turquoises, and greens, with peony, lotus, and chrysanthemum decoration. 1470–1559: Lifespan of the scholar-painter Wen Zhengming. His commentary infuses meaning into the rather static scenes he paints, for example, his depiction of an ancient cypress, a symbol of endurance. 1476: Buddhism and Daoism are vigorous. One hundred thousand monks are ordained this year; by 1490 there will be five times as many monks in the empire. c. 1500: Portuguese kings begin collecting Ming porcelain. 1527–1602: Lifespan of philosopher-historian Li Zhi, heterodox author of Book Burning, Book Holding and other works. “Why should stress be laid on the old classics?” he asks. A liberal thinker following loosely in the tradition of Wang Yangming, he runs afoul of the Ming powers, is charged with spreading dangerous ideas, and dies in prison in his seventy-fifth year.

Arts, Culture, Thought, and Religion 1552: Francis Xavier, one of the founders of

the Jesuit order, dies on an island just off the Guangdong coast—his closest approach to China despite great efforts to reach the fabled empire. 1574–1646: Lifespan of Feng Menglong, author-compiler of collections of vernacular tales titled Stories to Enlighten Men, Stories to Warn Men, and Stories to Awaken Men. He peoples his sometimes comic stories with a colorful cast of robbers, nobles, monks, courtesans, and spirits. 1577: Imperial demand for high-quality porcelain peaks. The kilns at Jingdezhen in northern Jiangxi turn out 96,500 small pieces, 56,600 large pieces, and 21,600 pieces for use in sacrificial ceremonies. 1577: Alessandro Valignano, the head of the Jesuit missions in East Asia, orders that missionaries to China be fully instructed in Chinese manners and customs before they attempt to carry out their work. 1583: The Italian Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci (1552–1610) arrives in Macau near the South China city of Guangzhou. By 1595, he has moved on to Nanjing. 1593–1657: Lifespan of Tan Qian, author of National Deliberations, a history of the Ming dynasty written in the form of annals. 1598: The dramatist-satirist Tang Xianzu (1550–1616) writes the The Peony Pavilion. That work, together with Purple Hairpin, The Dream of Han Tan, and The Southern Tributary State, are known collectively as the Four Dreams of Linchuan because Linchuan is the author’s native county in Jiangxi province. In 1998, The Peony Pavilion will become the center of a controversy when Chinese officials refuse to allow it to be performed in the United States. [See June 24, 1998.] 1598: Matteo Ricci makes his first trip to Beijing. Early 1600s: Golden Lotus, one of China’s


masterpieces of fiction, is published. An allegory of greed, the story of the hedonistic career of the scholar-official Qing Ximen, it is also a realistic portrayal of elite Chinese family life. 1602: The Dutch begin large-scale importation of Chinese porcelain. Ming kilns are best known for polychrome pieces with a blue underglaze. Such pieces are in great demand in Europe and Asia. By 1682 the Dutch United East India Company will have shipped 12 million pieces to Europe. 1601–1609: Matteo Ricci, resident in Beijing, reports on “the exceedingly large numbers of books in circulation” there compared to his native Italy and “the ridiculously low prices at which they are sold.” A man of charm and wide learning, he is welcomed at the imperial court, where he preaches Christianity and lectures on Western scientific advances. He makes few converts, however, and those only among the educated elite, for the Jesuits have little influence at lower levels of the social scale. 1614: Jesuit missionaries are at work in nine of the fifteen provinces. By dynasty’s end, there are an estimated 150,000 Chinese Christians. 1621: Historian Mao Yuanyi completes A Record of Military Affairs, a study of military theory, strategy, and campaigns throughout China’s history. 1625: The unorthodox philosopher Li Zhi remains so widely read more than twenty years after his death that the emperor orders the censors to find and burn the wooden printing blocks of his works. 1638: Chen Zilong and others complete A Collection of Essays on National Affairs during the Ming Dynasty, a compilation of source materials on Ming history, politics, and economics. 1643: The examination system is so corrupt that first and second places in Beijing go to the highest bidders.


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Q I N G D Y N A S T Y: 1 6 4 4 – 1 9 1 2 1610–1695: Lifespan of the political philoso-

1699: Kong Shangren (1648–1718) completes

pher-historian Huang Zongxi. A follower of the Donglin reformers of the late Ming, he writes biographies of important Ming leaders and analyses of Ming government structure, including a work titled Cases in the History of the Ming. 1613–1682: Lifespan of Gu Yanwu, whose wide learning, extensive travels, and empirical research inform his essays on government, ethics, economics, geography, and social relations. His work will deeply influence the Kaozheng scholarly movement of the eighteenth century. 1616–1705: Lifespan of the painter Zhu Da. A Ming imperial clansman, he refuses to collaborate with the Manchus, concentrating instead on his highly expressionistic paintings of birds, fish, rocks, mountains, and other natural features. 1632–1717: Lifespan of the artist Wang Hui, painter of The Kangxi Emperor’s Second Tour of the South, 1691–1695. 1652: Xiao Yuncong paints Reading in Snowy Mountains. 1670: The Kangxi emperor promulgates the Sacred Edict, a compilation of Confucian maxims on morality, manners, and social relations. 1680: Pu Zongling (1640–1719) completes his Strange Tales from a Lonely Studio, a collection of five hundred stories, many with the theme of young love and many on fantastic subjects. 1688: Dramatist Hong Sheng (1645–1704) completes the Palace of Eternal Youth, a play set during the An Lushan rebellion of the Tang dynasty. 1691: Yuan Jiang paints The Jiucheng Palace. 1692: The Kangxi emperor issues an edict extending toleration to Christian converts so long as they continue to perform ancestral rites. He rescinds the edict, however, when a Vatican envoy rules against allowing Chinese Christians to perform the ancient rites.

his popular drama The Peach Blossom Fan. Set in the Ming pretender court of the Prince of Fu, it tells the story of a Ming scholar and the woman he loves against a backdrop of court intrigue. The work becomes a favorite at the Qing court. 1724: Emperor Yongzheng bans Christianity; Jesuits are permitted only in Beijing. The ban is not enforced with violence, however. “The distant barbarians come here attracted by our culture,” the emperor observes. “We must show them generosity and virtue.” 1726: The massive encyclopedia titled Complete Collection of Illustrations and Writings from Earliest to Current Times is published. It runs to 800,000 pages and contains more than 100 million Chinese characters. c. 1765: Kaozheng scholars are widely influential. Devoted to facts and rigorous in their methodology, they undertake close textual study of the Confucian classics to determine which parts of the canon are the master’s and which parts are later accretions. They cast doubt on the works of once-influential Songera interpreters such as Zhu Xi. Dai Zhen (1723–1777) is a leading kaozheng scholar. His later work, however, turns philosophical and speculative about human motivations and the meaning of moral action. 1768: The novel Unofficial History of the Scholars, an important Qing literary work, is published. It depicts the lives and struggles of the underemployed eighteenth-century educated elite. 1772–1782: As part of a vast literary compilation project that takes a decade to complete, Qianlong orders thousands of books closely examined for disparaging references to the Manchus. Some two thousand offending titles disappear entirely. The compilation, edited by Dai Zhen and known as the Four Treasuries, is a complete anthology of the Chinese classics, histories, treatises on

Arts, Culture, Thought, and Religion

philosophy, and literary works. It fills 36,000 manuscript volumes. 1784–1785: The Qing government carries out a general persecution of China’s small Catholic community. In 1800 the country’s Catholic population is estimated at 200,000– 250,000. 1792: The Dream of the Red Chamber, China’s greatest novel, incomplete at author Cao Xueqin’s death in 1763, is published. It follows the fortunes of the Jia family from wealth and power to gradual decline and final collapse. 1794–1856: Lifespan of the scholar Wei Yuan. His Collected Writings discusses Chinese government theory and practice. He is also the author of the Illustrated Treatise on the Maritime Kingdoms. 1807: Robert Morrison of the London Missionary Society (established 1795) arrives in China. Protestants find it slow going; Morrison will baptize his first Chinese convert only in 1814. 1810–1820: Li Ruzhen writes China’s greatest satirical novel, Flowers in the Mirror. In parts of the novel gender roles are reversed and men are subjected to pain and humiliation. Li has this to say of footbinding: “Blood and flesh were squeezed into pulp and then little remained of his feet but dry bones and skin, shrunk, indeed, to a dainty size.” 1819: British missionary Robert Morrison and a colleague translate the Old Testament and New Testament into Chinese. 1820s: The Xuehai Tang (the “Sea of Learning Hall”) is founded in Guangzhou (Canton). It becomes an important South China center of scholarship. 1835: An American, Dr. Peter Parker, the first medical missionary sent to China, opens a hospital at Guangzhou. 1839: Thirty Catholic missionaries are at work in China. The number will more than double by 1845. 1844: Presbyterian mission school in the treaty port of Ningbo opens with an enrollment of thirty Chinese boys. The first class


will graduate in 1850. Also this year, the first mission school for girls opens in Ningbo. 1850: Full translation of the Bible and a Manchu version of the New Testament circulate in China. 1850s: The Taiping Rebellion sweeps China, drawing strength from Chinese popular religion with its ghosts, spirits, and admixtures of Daoism, Buddhism, and, in the case of the Taiping leader Hong Xiuquan, Christianity. 1854: Yung Wing (1828–1912) graduates from Yale University. The first Chinese graduate of an American university, he will use his connections to import modern industrial machinery and weaponry into China from the United States. 1862: Qing reformers open an interpreters’ school, teaching English and French, in Beijing. Government-sponsored language schools soon open in Shanghai, Canton, and Fuzhou. 1865: Translation of Euclid’s Elements of Geometry is published with an introduction by the prominent reforming scholar-official Zeng Guofan. February 1867: Beijing interpreters’ school reopens as a college offering mathematics, chemistry, geology, mechanics, and international law as well as languages. June 1870: Simmering antiforeign resentment erupts as violence in Tianjin. In the so-called Tianjin Massacre, mobs kill sixteen French missionaries and consular officials. The government tries and executes sixteen Chinese for the killings. 1879: The American Episcopal Mission founds St. John’s College in Shanghai. 1890: Protestant missionaries are established in fifteen of China’s sixteen provinces. By 1900 there are five hundred Protestant mission stations in the country. 1896: Two Chinese mission school graduates, given the western names of Ida Kahn and Mary Stone, return from the United States with University of Michigan medical degrees and open medical practices in China. 1896: Qing government founds Nanyang College in Shanghai.


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1900: Total of Chinese Catholics reaches

1907: Qing approves a national system of

700,000; there are around 100,000 Chinese Protestants. 1905: Qing abolishes the traditional Confucian examination system. 1906: Around 250 Protestant mission hospitals and dispensaries treat 2 million Chinese annually. Some 58,000 Chinese students are enrolled in Protestant mission schools.

girls’ education. Within three years forty thousand girls’ schools enroll 1.6 million students. 1908: The United States allocates half its Boxer indemnity, around $12 million, to train Chinese students in America. The fund will have supported 1,268 Chinese scholars by 1929.

THE REPUBLIC: 1912–1949 1904–1965: Lifespan of the painter Fu Bao-

shi. His works often interpret scenes from Chinese poems. His landscapes and figures celebrate China’s history and scholarly tradition. 1912: Yan Fu (1854–1921), the translator of Darwin, Huxley, Spencer, and Adam Smith, is first president of the reorganized Beijing University, successor to the late Qing Metropolitan University, founded in 1898. 1915: The American Rockefeller Foundation helps establish the Beijing Union Medical College. It will become China’s leading center of medical research and teaching. 1915: Chen Duxiu (1879–1942), Dean of Letters at Beijing University, founds the periodical New Youth, which attacks traditional Chinese thought. “We must be thoroughly aware of the incompatibility between Confucianism and the new belief, the new society, and the new state,” Chen writes. In keeping with this, the magazine will abandon classical Chinese and publish in the vernacular. 1917–1926: Cai Yuanpei (1868–1948) is president of Beijing University. He upgrades the faculty, improves the curriculum, and encourages students to take “new views of the world and life.” Cai will become an influential figure in the May Fourth political and cultural revival.

1919: More than 130,000 girls’ schools enroll

4.5 million students. May 1, 1919: In New Youth, Beijing Univer-

sity librarian Li Dazhao (1889–1927) publishes an introduction to Marxist theory. He will organize a Marxist study group at the university in 1921 whose attendees include Mao Zedong, a young student from rural Henan. 1920s: Lu Xun, a satirist of contemporary Chinese manners and character, is China’s leading writer. Lu Xun writes in the baihua vernacular, following the advice of those who call for the abandonment of stilted classical literary language in favor of one accessible to ordinary people. Lu Xun’s political views turn increasingly leftist in the later 1920s, but he remains a literary independent. “Great works of literature have never obeyed any orders or concerned themselves with utilitarian motives,” he remarks in 1927. 1920: Beijing University admits women students for the first time. By 1922 women students will make up 2.5 percent of the total enrollment of 35,000 in China’s colleges and universities. 1922: The YMCA claims 54,000 members in thirty-six Chinese cities. China’s radicals disdain the organization. “YMCAs constantly use athletics, popular education, etc. to do evangelistic work so as to smother the politi-

Arts, Culture, Thought, and Religion

cal thought of the youth,” Shanghai radicals claim. December 1927: The feminist writer Ding Ling publishes the story “The Diary of Miss Sophie.” This hard-eyed, bleak look at emancipation—social, cultural, sexual—in Republican China will create a sensation and make its author famous. She will later become a Communist. 1928: Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek establishes the Guomindang Central Political Institute in Beijing for political leaders and government administrators. The course of study is nationalist and antiforeign, with a Confucian undercurrent emphasizing order, harmony, discipline, and hierarchy. March 1928: The Crescent Moon literary society publishes the first number of its magazine. The society takes a western aesthetic view of art and artists; neither revolution nor class forms a basis for literary criticism. Crescent Moon writers battle polemically with the left-wing purveyors of “proletarian” literature. 1929–1937: The Academia Sinica sponsors the excavation of the heretofore legendary Shang dynasty capital at Anyang north of the Yellow River in Henan province. Archeologists unearth the foundations of fifty-three buildings, a trove of Shang bronzes, and the famous oracle bones before the Japanese invasion interrupts their work. 1930s: Cultural changes in urban China penetrate the countryside only slowly. Rural traditions remain everywhere potent: the New Year and the Lantern Festival; the springtime Qingming grave-sweeping festival (these remain popular in the cities too); and countless fairs scheduled from village to village on the birthdays of local temple gods. Along with religious observances, the fairs offer merchants shops, stalls for barbers, fortunetellers and storytellers, and livestock trading. March 2, 1930: The League of Left-Wing Writers is established in Shanghai. Most of its writers will hew to the Communist Party


line. Among the founders is the fellow traveler Lu Xun. Though a convert, he refuses to equate propaganda with literature. October 1930: Chiang Kai-shek is baptized a Christian. His wife Soong Meiling is a graduate of Wellesley College in Massachusetts. Through his wife, Chiang makes important American connections. 1931: Pearl S. Buck, the daughter of American missionaries in China, publishes The Good Earth, a novel of Chinese life set in the tumultuous present. It has a great impact on Americans’ views of China and its troubles. The novel sells 1.5 million copies and wins a Pulitzer Prize. 1932: Mao Dun’s novel of capitalist exploitation in Shanghai, Midnight, is published. A committed Communist, Mao Dun (1896– 1982) is a leading member of the Stalin-inspired League of Left-Wing Writers. 1932: Gao Jianfu paints Flying in the Rain, depicting seven biplanes aloft over a typical Chinese landscape of water, trees, and mountains. 1933: Ba Jin, the most popular novelist of the 1930s, publishes Family, a story of the “new youth.” Its leading characters, three brothers, represent types of young activists of the May Fourth Movement. 1935: Despite the spread of coeducation in urban areas, educated women are rare in country districts; only 2 percent of women in rural China are literate, compared to 30 percent of men. 1937: The popular author Lao She’s novel Rickshaw, exploring underclass life in Beijing, is published. 1938: Japanese occupation forces the relocation of China’s universities. Nankai, National Beijing, and other institutions combine to form the National Southwest Associated University in Nationalist-held Kunming in Yunnan. By 1940, enrollment will reach three thousand. 1941: Mao Dun publishes Putrefaction, a political novel of the “New Fourth Army Inci-


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dent” that details abuses of the Guomindang secret police. May 2, 1942: Mao Zedong convenes the Yan’an Forum on Literature and Art, part of the Communists’ ideological Rectification Campaign of 1942–1943. The forum lays down the party line on the forms and purposes of literature. The life of the people is “the sole and inexhaustible source of processed literature and art,” Mao declares. He disdains traditional forms of high art, whether Chinese or foreign. “Revolutionary Chinese writers and artists must go among the masses,” he says. “They must go among the masses of workers, peasants and soldiers, and into the heat of battle for a long time to come.” 1943: Communist cultural commissars re-

vamp the popular Peking opera form with a production of a work titled Driven to Join the Liangshan Rebels. The story is taken from a novel called The Water Margin, a tale of noble, protorevolutionary outlaws then a favorite work of Mao Zedong himself. February 27, 1945: Writers and artists in the Nationalist capital of Chongqing publish a manifesto that demands an end to censorship, police spying, and war profiteering. It also seeks guarantees of personal safety, freedom of speech, and freedom to publish. The government responds with arrests; in 1946, Guomindang agents in Kunming will assassinate a poet associated with the manifesto. 1947: The popular novelist Ba Jin publishes Cold Nights, a work set in wartime Chongqing.

THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC: 1949–1998 March 1949: The Communist newspaper Peo-

ple’s Daily moves to Beijing. July 1949: First National Conference of Literature and Arts Workers meets in Beijing. December 1949: Novelist/playwright Lao She (1899–1966, author of Rickshaw, 1937) returns to China after three years in the United States. 1950: Communist government establishes Institute of Archeology with permanent field stations at Anyang, Xian, and Luoyang. October 1951: Volume 1 of The Selected Works of Mao Zedong is published in Beijing. January 10, 1955: The Peking Opera Company is established. May 25, 1955: Government dismisses the writer Hu Feng from the writer’s union and other posts for “bourgeois and idealist thinking.” He resists the primacy of Marxist theory in art criticism. “This weapon is frightening,” he says, “because it can stifle the real feelings of creativity and art.” Arrested in July and tried in secret, Hu is held in prison for most of the next twenty-four years. 1957: Mao Zedong’s Anti-Rightist Campaign

targets writers and artists. The journalist Liu Binyan (born 1925), who introduces the form of investigative journalism the Chinese dub “reporting literature,” is among the younger victims. Older, established writers are not overlooked. During the Hundred Flowers Campaign, Ding Ling (1904–1985), author of The Diary of Miss Sophie and an ideologically correct, Stalin Prize-winning work of “proletarian” literature titled The Sun Shines over the Sanggan River, calls for the lifting of government controls on literature. In the aftermath, she is stripped of her party jobs and sent to work as a laborer on a farm near the Siberian frontier. December 1957: Liang Bin publishes his novel Keep the Red Flag Flying. March 4, 1958: Peking Review begins publication. September 2, 1958: Beijing Television begins broadcasting. March 17, 1960: Gong Pinmei, the Catholic bishop of Shanghai, is sentenced to life in prison. Early 1960s: Government institutes the “two

Arts, Culture, Thought, and Religion

track” education system, with superior schooling for talented children and lesser instruction for ordinary students. A feature is “keypoint” college preparatory schools for elite students. Mao Zedong opposes this system as “revisionist.” 1961: Pan Tianshou paints Crane and Frost Plum Together at Year’s End. January 1961: Historian Wu Han’s play The Dismissal of Hai Rui from Office is published. The work will be regarded as an implicit critique of Communist Party tyranny and in particular an attack on Mao Zedong. July 1, 1961: The Museum of Chinese History and the Museum of the Chinese Revolution open in Beijing. August 1962: The People’s Literary Press publishes the fourteenth and last volume of Ba Jin’s Collected Works. April 1963: Jiang Qing, Mao Zedong’s wife, calls for the banning of ghost plays and other traditional dramatic forms. October 20, 1964: The East Is Red, a historical poem with music and dancing, is staged in Beijing. November 1965: An article in a Shanghai newspaper attacks Wu Han’s The Dismissal of Hai Rui as an allegorical critique of Mao Zedong. This proves to be a ranging shot in the coming Cultural Revolution. 1966–1976: Radicals target writers and artists during the Mao-inspired Cultural Revolution. The writer Ding Ling spends five years in a state prison; not even her authorship of a work titled Songs in Praise of the Five-Year Plan can save her. Red Guards publicly humiliate the author Ba Jin, whose novel Family had been a bestseller in the 1930s. Radicals forces Ba’s wife to work as a streetcleaner. Red Guards drive the distinguished novelist Lao She to suicide. June 1966: Government suspends college entrance examinations and shuts down the schools for a semester as part of the Cultural Revolution. 1967: Cultural Revolution activists dismantle


the two-track education system and introduce egalitarian schooling for the masses. July 1968: The revolutionary opera The Red Lantern opens in Beijing. 1972: Guan Shanyue paints Oil City in the South, an idealized picture of China’s industrial development. 1973–1974: Government propaganda campaign attacks Confucius and Confucian thought as reactionary and praises the first emperor of Qin, Zheng, long vilified as a tyrant. Disgraced officials such as the former defense minister Lin Biao are stigmatized as “the Confuciuses of contemporary China.” April 1973: The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra tours China. The Philadelphia Orchestra will tour the country in September. January 14, 1974: An editorial in the People’s Daily attacks Beethoven, Schubert, and other European composers as “bourgeois.” October 1977: College entrance examinations are restored as part of the dismantling of the Cultural Revolution education system. Decision-making is restored to academics; ideological supervision is reduced; and “quality over quantity” is sought in the schools. The latter leads to a restoration of the two-track system favoring talented students, which as Mao feared does tend to favor students of educated or high-status background. 1978: Pursuing a gradual opening to the West, China sends a first group of 480 top students to study abroad. 1979: Huang Yongyu paints Lotus at Night. January 1, 1979: Publications in China using the Roman alphabet change to the pinyin system of romanization. June 1979: The literary periodical The Present begins publication. 1980: Authorities ban the film Bitter Love on account of its “negative” message. The film tells the story of a painter and his family brutalized during the Cultural Revolution. The action signals the opening of a government campaign against “spiritual pollution,”


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which is how the party views self-expression in the arts. Early 1980s: The Communist leadership pursues badly needed education reform—only 14 percent of the party’s 40 million members are high school graduates, a survey finds. Many Chinese students are now permitted to study abroad. October 1, 1981: China gives salary increases to primary and secondary school teachers. 1982: Census shows illiteracy is still widespread in China; 28.2 percent of the population is classified as illiterate or semiliterate. 1982: Twenty universities and institutes offer undergraduate law studies, with two thousand students enrolled. 1983: Some eleven thousand Chinese are studying in fifty-four foreign countries at government expense; another seven thousand are paying their own way in school abroad. July 28, 1984: At Los Angeles, China wins its first-ever Olympic gold medal, in a pistolshooting event. January 5, 1985: The government issues a new charter for the Chinese Writers Association that promises freedom of expression—so long as members follow party and Marxist-Leninist guidelines. May 19, 1985: Riot erupts in Beijing after Hong Kong defeats China in a soccer match. April 21, 1986: China mandates nine years’

compulsory education in cities and other developed areas by 1990 and everywhere else by 2000. 1988: More than 7 million children drop out of China’s schools—including primary schools. The State Statistical Bureau reports that 230 million Chinese are illiterate. Spring 1988: A popular Chinese television documentary titled River Elegy blames China’s problems on ancient traditions such as inwardness, xenophobia, and lack of curiosity about the larger world. December 22, 1988: China’s first exhibit of nude paintings opens in Beijing. 1994: Authorities ban the film The Blue Kite, a story of family suffering during the political upheavals of the 1950s and 1960s. 1996: China’s colleges and universities enroll 3.2 million undergraduates. There are 136 million students in primary schools and 50 million in junior secondary schools. June 24, 1998: After some weeks of negotiations, Chinese officials in Shanghai announce that they will not allow the Shanghai opera group to perform The Peony Pavilion at the Lincoln Center summer festival in New York City because the production is judged to be “feudal, superstitious, and pornographic.” The sets and costumes may be sent because they were paid for by the Lincoln Center festival, but the singers are not allowed to leave China, thus effectively stopping the performance.

China s c i en c e -t e chnol ogy, e c ono m i cs , an d e v e ryd ay l i f e

PREHISTORIC AND LEGENDARY CHINA: 1,960,000–2200 500,000–250,000 B . C .: It had long been widely

claimed that the hominids who inhabit the caves at Zhoukoudian make and control fire in hearths, but in 1998 scientists announce that there is no evidence of a fire in the cave. 12,000–6000 B . C .: Neolithic people of China live in villages, farm, use polished stone tools, and make pottery. 5,000–3,000 B . C .: Chinese sites from as early as 5000 b.c. yield some of the oldest known evidence for keeping nonruminant animals such as pigs and chickens. By 4500 b.c. the oldest known evidence in East Asia for keeping ruminants is the bones of small and possibly domesticated cattle found in northern China. 4000–3000 B . C .: By the end of this period, copper is being used at some sites in China.

B . C .: According to tradition, the Yellow Emperor himself takes an interest in mathematics and astronomy and he is the patron of important texts in these fields of study. 2500 B . C .: The earliest known evidence of bronze in East Asia is found in northern China. 2357–2258 B . C .: According to tradition, during the reign of Emperor Yao important astronomical observations are made. 2255–2208 B . C .: According to Han tradition, the Emperor Shun’s chief minister, Yu, tames the flood after nine devastating years with a series of permanent flood control measures: canals are dug, river channels are dredged, reservoirs are created.


THE THREE DYNASTIES (XIA, SHANG, ZHOU): 2208–249 1500 B . C .: The Chinese are making silk about

this time, the first people in the world known to do so. About this time, too, the Chinese



are the first in East Asia known to use horsedrawn vehicles. c. 1200 B . C .: War chariots come into use in


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North China military campaigns. Shang’s hunter-warrior kings field armies as large as three thousand to five thousand men. These soldiers, carried into battle aboard chariots, carry spears with bronze blades, wooden bows and halberds—a wooden pole with blades affixed to the tip of the shaft. 6th century B . C .: Bronze swords appear as weapons of war, probably reaching the Chinese through contact with steppe tribes. In the next century, the crossbow, more accurate and powerful than the compound bow, will be introduced. 594 B . C .: The small state of Lu in Shandong province introduces a new system of taxation. This leads to changes in peasant-landlord relations in which the peasantry becomes more independent; at the same time, the peasant class loses some landlord protections. Some peasants are able to acquire land; others, however, are reduced to landless laborer status.

B . C .: Iron begins to come into use in China; its use soon spreads throughout Asia. 487 B . C .: A canal is built to link the Yangtze and Huai rivers; its purpose is military and defensive. 408 B . C .: Taxation of grain is mentioned for the first time in Qin. 400 B . C .: Animal-drawn plows gradually begin replacing hand-hoe methods of cultivation. Iron is in general use for hoes, sickles, and other agricultural tools. But it is expensive, so stone and wooden tools are still widespread. 336 B . C .: Metal currency is issued for the first time in Qin. 307 B . C .: In the state of Zhao, mounted archers to supplement infantry are used for the first time. The notion is probably borrowed from the nomadic tribes. The growing use of cavalry gives rise to an important change in dress, to trousers and tunics.


Q I N D Y N A S T Y: 2 2 1 – 2 0 6 3d century B . C .: Qin’s military superiority de-

pends in part on widespread use of iron weapons. Iron tools also foster development of Qin agriculture. This is possibly the century when the Chou-pei Suan-chang, China’s oldest true mathematical work, is written down. Scholars believe it contains knowledge that goes back to the 12th century b.c. 246 B . C .: Work begins on the Cheng Guo Canal in southwest Qin; it eventually irrigates 465,000 acres of former wasteland. 221–214 B . C .: Meng Tian, a leading Qin general, uses 300,000 laborers to construct a defense system of packed earthen walls along the northern frontier. With much later additions, it becomes the Great Wall of China. 221–210 B . C .: The First Emperor, Zheng,


standardizes imperial weights and measures. Qin authorities demolish city walls throughout the empire and collect and destroy vast stockpiles of weapons. 220 B . C .: Construction begins on a system of imperial highways. 219 B . C .: The cutting of a mountain canal is the key link in a river network that eventually allows uninterrupted water transport from the Yangtze River to the South China port of Guangzhou (Canton). 212 B . C .: Work begins on a major highway running north from the Qin capital across the Ordos Desert and the Yellow River into modern Inner Mongolia—a total distance of more than five hundred miles. Altogether, the Qin highway network exceeds four thousand miles.

Science-Technology, Economics, and Everyday Life

H A N D Y N A S T Y: 2 0 2 The Western Market opens in Chang’an, the Early Han capital. It becomes the principal workplace for merchants, traders, and travelers from the provinces and from Central Asia. It also is a site for divination and for such public spectacles as the execution of traitors. 139 B . C .: Zhang Qian embarks on his first journey of exploration in Central Asia. He is captured and held prisoner for ten years. He escapes and continues his wandering, giving China a new knowledge and awareness of the world to the west. c. 120 B . C .: Han merchants gradually develop trade routes along the Silk Road into Central Asia. They exchange Chinese silk for horses, fleece, and raw jade. Eventually wine will be imported into China from the west, and vineyards will be kept for the imperial court. c. 120 B . C .: Increasing contact with outlanders from India and Central Asia, with their foreign words, names, and concepts, leads to extensive additions to the Chinese written vocabulary. 115 B . C .: The government establishes an agency to regulate commodity prices. 115 B . C .: Zhang Qian sets out on his second expedition to Central Asia. He reaches Ferghana and Sogdiana and returns home with an enthusiastic report about prospects for the silk trade. c. 115 B . C .: State salt and iron monopolies are established. 112 B . C .: Han imposes controls on the minting of coins. The mostly copper five-shu piece is adopted as the standard and its manufacture restricted to government agencies. Shu indicates weight; five shu are the equivalent of three grams. Exchange value is roughly 10,000 copper coins for a 244-gram gold ingot. 104 B . C .: Zhang Qian’s explorations end in the Han conquest of the kingdom of Ferghana in the northwest. Chinese traders push westward along the Silk Road to Persia. 189

B . C .:

B.C. –A.D.



c. 100 B . C .: Water clocks are in use in China

for marking time. 98 B . C .: Government sets up a monopoly on

liquor. 81 B . C .: The emperor orders an inquiry into

the causes of popular hardship. The result is a wide-ranging conference at the imperial court in which scholars debate state-run versus private enterprise, public good versus private gain. The state monopolies become a main point of contention. Confucian reformists view them as a burden on the people. Modernists see them as necessary to fund state expansion. The sessions are recorded in a remarkable document, produced some years after the conference, titled Discourse on Salt and Iron. 66–64 B . C .: In response to adverse portents, the government lowers the price of salt, reduces taxes, and takes other measures to ease the people’s distress in a period of economic hardship. c. 45 B . C .: Contemporary sources mention three large textile manufactories in operation in east China, each employing several thousand workers. Most Chinese textiles are woven from hemp and silk; for the common people, garments woven coarsely from hemp are everyday wear. 44 B . C .: Reformists succeed in abolishing the state monopolies. 41 B . C .: Loss of revenue leads the state to restore monopolies on salt and iron. 30 B . C .: Heavy flooding causes widespread hardship in parts of China. Han officials respond to the disaster with new flood control programs, including dike-building and the cutting of auxiliary channels to carry off excess water. c. 5 B . C .: Use of the sea facilitates the unification of China and its expansion southward. A Han-era ship model found by modern archaeologists near Guangzhou (Canton) has a centered sternpost rudder, a major advance in maritime technology that


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will not appear in Europe for a thousand years. 1st century A . D .: Probable time when the Chiu-chang suan-shu (Nine Chapters on Mathematical Techniques), a classic Chinese text, is compiled. It is possibly the oldest textbook on arithmetic in existence and records knowledge probably dating back to at least the third century b.c. (for it is attributed to Chang Tsang, who lived c. 250–152 b.c.). It is particularly noted for its consideration of the properties and applications of the right triangle, paralleling the work of Pythagoras in some respects. A . D . 1–2: Nearly fifty iron foundries are in operation in China north of the Yangtze. Contemporary sources suggest as many as 100,000 men work in iron and copper mines. Metalworking shops turn out farming tools; arms, including swords, spears, helmets, armor, arrowheads, and bronze triggers for crossbows; and domestic utensils such as lamps, pots, cooking stoves, and knives. At least three government workshops are turning out fine lacquerware at this time, some of it for export. Over time, green, yellow, gold, and silver pigments supplement the basic lacquer colors of red and black. More than thirty agencies are involved in the manufacture of salt, the essential preservative. Around a dozen works draw salt from the sea along the Shandong coast, using a system of pans or tanks for evaporation. Inland, in Manchuria and the Ordos, rock salt and brine are mined, using sophisticated engineering techniques, from deep within the earth. c. 3–5: Major floods claim many lives, destroy crops, and alter the course of the Yellow River, touching off what will build up to a major population migration southward. 5: The government completes a new road linking the Wei River valley to today’s Sichuan to the south, improving communications between the two regions. 9: Bronze footrules capable of precise mea-

surements are in general use in the building trades. The government of Wang Mang, who has taken power in the wake of the collapse of Early Han, introduces a new range of coins, at least twenty-eight denominations. They are minted from gold, silver, tortoise shell, cowries, and copper. 10: The government reestablishes the offagain, on-again state monopolies on liquor, salt, and iron tools. Government storehouses for grain, cloth, and silk open in five major cities as part of a price-stabilization effort. A 10 percent income tax is levied on hunters, fishermen, artisans, and merchants. Most of these practices had been tried before; modern historians regard them as a continuation of Early Han policies rather than a radical departure. 16: Wang Mang orders an executed prisoner dissected for scientific/medical research. 25: Wang Mang’s new coins fail to catch on. With the advent of Later Han, the five-shu piece is again declared the standard. 27–c. 100: Lifespan of essayist and natural philosopher Wang Chong. He argues that disasters arise from natural causes and not the failings of rulers, and attributes belief in occult forces such as ghosts to weakness and hallucination. 30: To ease burdens on the peasantry, the first emperor of the Later Han lightens the land levy, taking only one-thirtieth part of the average harvest in tax. c. 65: By tradition, the first suspension bridge spans the Mekong River. It carries a growing trade along the mountain road linking China and Burma. 69: Using hundreds of thousands of conscript workers, Han engineers repair dikes, build watergates, and carry out related flood-control projects. 76: Cattle epidemics devastate China’s herds. A shortage of draft animals leads to significant reductions in the amount of land under cultivation and thus to food shortages. 78–139: Lifespan of Zhang Heng, scientist

Science-Technology, Economics, and Everyday Life

and mathematician. He calculates the value of p at 3.1622—the most accurate approximation yet in China. He is best known for his invention of a seismograph. 84: To promote agriculture, government orders commanderies to recruit landless men for resettlement in fertile districts. They are to be given state-owned land and paid to farm it. 88: The government temporarily ends monopolies on iron and salt, making up the revenue shortfall by taxing private manufacturers. 92–93: Drought and locust plagues cause large crop losses. Government relief measures include dropping the tax on land and straw. 2d century: The single-wheeled barrow is in widespread use. The first steel is produced. Large landowning families dominate agricultural life. They are responsible, in part, for significant advances in farming methods during the next century or so, particularly in irrigation technique and in the processing of grain. Iron tools are in general use on large


estates, though wooden tools are still common. 101: Crop failures cause widespread hardship. In response, Han authorities cancel food and seed debts of impoverished peasants. 105: This is the traditional date given for the invention of rag paper. It may be too early a date and in any case this kind of paper did not appear suddenly. Historians suggest that paper probably found its origin in experimentation with waste silk fibers. Silk cloth and wood slips will remain the most commonly used writing materials for at least another century. 153: Famine in the aftermath of Yellow River floods and locust infestations sets hundreds of thousands of “drifting” peasants on the road. Over the next two years, overwhelmed provincial officials report large-scale starvation. 166: Greek merchant traders visit China. 190: Water engineering works, possibly a series of high water wheels, send a continuous supply of water to the city of Luoyang.

THE THREE KINGDOMS AND SIX DYNASTIES: 220–589 263: Date assigned to composition of Hai-tau

c. 300: Rag paper, an invention of the Later

Suan-king (Sea Island Arithmetic Classic) by Li Hui. 4th century: Constant fighting devastates the countryside and depresses trade and commerce.

Han, is coming into widespread use. The first authenticated surviving pieces of paper are dated a.d. 310 and 312.

S U I D Y N A S T Y: 5 8 9 – 6 1 8 581: To counter the continuing threat of no-

madic invasion from the north, the Sui launches a long-term project to repair and expand the Great Wall, China’s traditional line of defense. Thirty thousand workers are conscripted for the initial stages. During this short-lived dynasty, much of the wall will be rebuilt on existing foundations using tradi-

tional construction materials, pounded earth, and sun-dried brick. 581–682: Lifespan of Sun Simiao, one of China’s leading pharmacologists. His Precious Prescriptions and Supplement to Precious Prescriptions cover diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease and record the recipes for eight hundred common drugs.


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584–589: Wendi orders a canal built from

Chang’an to the confluence of the Wei and Yellow rivers one hundred miles distant. The canal will speed the shipment of grain into the capital region. 585: Wendi orders a network of granaries to be built to which peasant families are to pay an average 0.7 bushels of grain a year. The system will be expanded in 596. 592: Grain and textile shortages prompt Sui officials to launch a campaign to equalize land holdings and get more land into cultivation. 605: Yangdi orders construction of the Tongji Canal linking Luoyang with Chuzhou on the Huai River. As many as a million workers are mobilized for the job. Canal building has

economic, military, and political uses, all of which tend to cement unity of the empire. 607: The emperor mobilizes a million workers for a new north-south section of the Great Wall from the Ordos region to modern Shanxi province. 608: Work begins on the largest of the Sui canals, the Yongji, which runs northeast from near Luoyang to the vicinity of modern Beijing. More than a million laborers, men and women, are said to have been involved in the project. 611: Floods in the Yellow River valley cause widespread distress and attendant political unrest. Labor levies for canal building and conscription for the pending Koguryo campaign feed the discontent.

T A N G D Y N A S T Y: 6 1 8 – 9 0 7 624: Together with the equal field land-ten-

ure system, the new dynasty introduces a direct tax on each adult. The tax is in three forms: grain; silk or hemp fiber or cloth; and twenty days’ annual corve´e, or compulsory government labor service. 624: A new waterworks system opens eighty thousand acres to cultivation in Shanxi. A transport canal will be built to carry grain produced here to the capital at Chang’an. 628: The government establishes a system of relief granaries for famine times. 639: Grain price-regulation bureaus are set up in major cities. 668–670: A series of famines and natural disasters causes widespread distress. In 670, grain is so scarce in some districts that wine brewing is prohibited. 680: As a result of poor harvests, the price of grain rises to record levels. 682: The shortage of officially minted coins is chronic. The government orders the death penalty for the counterfeiting of coin. 682–727: Lifespan of Yi Xing, the first astron-

omer to work out a scientific study of the meridian. c. 700: As the eighth century opens, the Tang capital of Chang’an is perhaps the world’s greatest city in size, riches, and grandeur. The imperial city is meticulously laid out, with fourteen main streets running north to south and eleven running east to west. It is astonishingly diverse and cosmopolitan. People from most of the known world gather there. Exotic music, dance and acrobatics are a feature of Chang’an life. Buddhist and Daoist religious sites are numerous, of course, but there is also a mosque and a small congregation of Syrian Christians. The city maintains a fine network of parks. Though there are poorer quarters, the imperial capital is prosperous. 700–800: Fame of Tang papermaking spreads beyond China’s borders. Using bast fibers, mulberry, rattan and bamboo bark, and rice or wheat stalks, artisans produce fine paper of various types and colors.

Science-Technology, Economics, and Everyday Life

Chinese trading vessels sail regularly between Canton and the Persian Gulf. 705: Great flood devastates area of modern Hebei province and the Wei valley. 706–707: Severe drought leads to famine in Hebei and Henan. 712–713: Severe famine strikes the overpopulated, underproducing Chang’an capital region. 712–755: The reign of Emperor Xuanzong is an era of population growth, especially in the lower Yangtze basin. General prosperity is the rule for much of the reign. 714–719: Responding to natural disasters and famines, the government extends the priceregulation granary system throughout the country. Within fifteen years large surplus stocks will be available for famine relief. 733–804: Lifespan of Lu Yu, author of the Book of Tea, which discusses the cultivation of tea bushes and tea processing in detail. It is during this time that tea-drinking begins to become popular in China, spreading to Japan about 805. 734: Tang officials found large agricultural colonies along the northern tributaries of the Huai River in Henan for the cultivation of paddy rice. The colonies will be abandoned as unwieldy within a few years.


755: Widespread rebellion in the provinces

forces the Tang to abandon its effort to control land allocation—the so-called equal field system. The result: larger landed estates, tax inequities, and a growing gap between rich and poor. 780: The government alters the tax system, imposing direct levies on the land itself rather than the occupants. This has the effect of simplifying record-keeping and collection procedures. c. 800: Tea, in use heretofore as a medicine, is in increasingly widespread use as a beverage. c. 810: Exchange notes—negotiable certificates merchants and traders dub “flying money”—are in circulation. They are the forerunner of banknotes. 845: An imperial report on river piracy details how bands of pirates a hundred strong cruise up and down the Yangtze, plundering settlements and market centers. 858: Tremendous floods inundate the North China plain; along the Grand Canal, tens of thousands drown. 873: A disastrous harvest fuels popular unrest. In many areas only half the crop is gathered in and famine areas face mass starvation.

SONG DYNASTIES: 960–1279 994: Liao state produces the first calendar of

its own. 997: Song government mints 800 million coins a year. 11th century: China’s ironworkers develop a decarbonization method for steelmaking. Roofs that curve upward become widespread for government buildings and the houses of people of high rank. 1021–1101: Lifespan of Su Sung, astronomer and scholar-official. Hsin I Hsiang Fa Yao, his book on the water-powered drive mechanism for an armillary sphere and celestial

globe, reveals that the Chinese have been making clocks for some six centuries. 1031–1095: Lifespan of the scientist, scholar, and official Shen Kuo. He designs drainage and embankment systems to reclaim land for cultivation. As head of the Bureau of Astronomy, he oversees improvements to observatory instruments and more accurate calendar-making. He is also an expert in state finances. His works include the first descriptions of movable type (which he attributes to Pi Cheng, c. 1041–1048); its use will not, however, become widespread in China for another three hundred years.


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1040: The Song military manual known as

1130: Chinese inventors experiment with use

the Comprehensive Essentials of the Military Classics contains the first known written description of gunpowder. 1070s: A series of locust plagues strips North China croplands bare and leads to widespread distress. 1072: A Japanese visitor reports the price of admission to a Hangzhou bathhouse at ten cash. Two centuries later, Marco Polo estimates there are three thousand bathhouses in the city. 1076: A school of medicine is founded in Kaifeng; it will move to the Southern Song capital, Hangzhou, after 1126. 1078: North China produces 125,000 tons of pig iron a year. 1082–1083: A bitter winter with heavy snows in North China kills vast numbers of horses and livestock—estimates range as high as 70 percent of the total. 1085: Six billion coins are minted a year in China. 1111–1117: Imperial decrees authorize arrest of homosexual prostitutes in Kaifeng, with punishment of one hundred strokes with a rod. 1119: Chinese sources first mention the invention of the compass. The Chinese appear to have known of the magnetic compass since about 270, and some such device has probably been in use since the middle of the eleventh century. 1120: Song government collects 18 million ounces of silver in taxes. 1120s: To simplify trade and financial transactions, the Song begins issuing paper money. 1125: North China’s Jin rulers decree a government monopoly on wine; private wine production is barred. The law is widely disregarded. 1126: Jin issues an edict requiring Chinese to adopt Jurchen dress and hairstyle. It is widely ignored.

of gunpowder to propel projectiles out of a fire lance (huo chiang). Winter 1132: Canals, lakes freeze over in Hangzhou, an unusual occurrence in the semitropical city. June 1132: Fire consumes two miles of Hangzhou, destroying thirteen thousand homes. Fires are a recurring calamity for this densely packed city largely built of bamboo and wood. 1138: Southern Song outlaws the practice of infant abandonment and orders the establishment of foundling hospitals. 1141: Jin decrees that a male slave may buy his freedom on payment of three bolts of textiles; two bolts will purchase the freedom of a woman or child. 1149: Chen Fu’s important treatise Agriculture contains a systematic description of paddy rice culture. c. 1150: Foreign trade has taken on great importance in Southern Song economy. Chinese merchants export silks, porcelain and copper cash. c. 1150: Song traders and seafarers establish China as the world’s most advanced maritime nation. 1157: Jin bans the export of antiquities. 1161: Song forces fire explosive grenades from catapults in battle against the Jurchens. c. 1170: Jin emperor Shizong declares that Jurchens may no longer dress in the Chinese way or adopt Chinese names. The purpose is to preserve Jurchen customs, which seem to be dying out as most Jurchens adopt Chinese styles. 1170s: Drought and famine sweep North China. 1191: Jin rulers permit legal marriage between Jurchen and Chinese subjects. 1194: Major floods devastate large areas of the Yellow River valley in Hebei and Shandong, displacing farmers and destroying roads and bridges.

Science-Technology, Economics, and Everyday Life Late 12th century: In Fujian, peasant families

are said to practice the custom of “bathing the infant”—the drowning of unwanted children. According to a contemporary report, “If a man should have numerous sons he brings up no more than four and keeps no more than three daughters. He claims that he has not the means for bringing up more.” 13th century: By a contemporary estimate, the Chinese consume two pounds of rice per person per day. April 15, 1208: A terrible fire rages for four


days in the Southern Song capital of Hangzhou, destroying 58,000 homes. At least fiftynine people perish in the flames; others are trampled to death in panicked attempts to flee the city. 1217: Fresh Yellow River floods inundate parts of Shandong in northeast China. 1247: Publication of Shu-shu chiu-chang (Mathematical Treatise in Nine Sections), an important mathematical text by Ch’in Chiu-shao. 1280: Chinese use bronze and iron mortar tubes in battle against the Mongols.

Y U A N D Y N A S T Y: 1 2 7 9 – 1 3 6 8 1261: Mongols establish the Office for the

1295: China has a network of 1,400 postal

Stimulation of Agriculture to help North China’s peasants recover from wartime devastation. 1270: Mongol rulers endorse the peasant village organization known as she, which promotes farming, land reclamation, and education. 1271: Khubilai Khan founds the Institute for Muslim Astronomy to recruit Persian and Arab astronomers to China. February 1289: Yuan completes a 135-mile extension of the Grand Canal to Beijing. Late 13th century: Despite political turmoil, China’s economy continues to flourish. The Venetian traveler Marco Polo writes of the Yangtze valley: “I tell you that this river goes so far and through so many regions and there are so many cities on its banks that, truth to tell, in the total volume and value of the traffic on it, exceeds all the rivers of the Christians put together plus their seas.” The traveler is amazed, too, by the populous and rich former Southern Song capital of Hangzhou. “Anyone seeing such a multitude would believe it impossible that food could be found to feed them all, and yet on every market day all the market squares are filled with people and with merchants who bring food on carts and boats.”

stations fifteen to forty miles apart; in an emergency, post riders can cover 250 miles a day. c. 1300: Wang Zhen prepares his Nung Shu (Agricultural Treatise), a handbook that covers farming, forestry, animal husbandry, sericulture (silkworms), spinning, and weaving. It is especially noted for its detailed descriptions of agricultural implements, both for practical and ritual uses. 1314–1315: To increase revenue, government reestablishes state monopoly on foreign trade and adopts more aggressive tax collection policies. By 1316 widespread resistance to the tax scheme forces the Yuan to scrap the collection system. 1331–1354: An epidemic of what some scholars believe is bubonic plague devastates China. The Mongols may have transmitted it to Europe, causing the cataclysmic Black Death of 1348–1349. 1333–1334: Yellow River floods cause widespread distress. 1340s: Sections of the Grand Canal are rebuilt after heavy flood damage. Summer 1344: Yellow River begins shifting its course, breaking through dikes and flooding vast areas. Another consequence is


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drought in the Huai valley region of northern Henan, Anhui, and Jiangsu provinces. Widespread epidemic and famine make this region a center of resistance to Yuan rule. April 1351: Government announces plans to rechannel the flood-prone Yellow River. Some 170,000 troops and laborers are mobilized for the project, which is completed by year’s end. In an unintended consequence, thousands of peasants concentrated

for the river project join insurgent militias. 1353: In response to chronic grain shortages, government establishes state farms for rice culture in North China. 1356: Paper money ceases to circulate. Toghto’s inflationary policies have made it worthless: by necessity, he prints during his last years in power vast amounts of paper currency to fund state projects and quell rebellion.

M I N G D Y N A S T Y: 1 3 6 8 – 1 6 4 4 1385: High taxes and economic dislocation

touch off brief uprising of 200,000 peasants in Sichuan. 1403–1419: Shipyards near Nanjing turn out two thousand vessels, including one hundred ships 370–440 feet in length. July 1405: The Muslim eunuch Zheng He sets sail on the first of his seven voyages into what the Chinese call the “Western Oceans.” The fleet, with more than 300 vessels and 27,000 men, calls at Champa, Vietnam, Java, Sumatra, Malacca, Ceylon, and South India. The largest of Zheng’s vessels are nine-masted junks 440 feet long and 186 feet in the beam. Their holds are packed with silks, embroidery, and other luxuries for presentation to local potentates. On the return voyage home in 1407, Zheng engages the infamous Chinese pirate Zhen Zu off the Sumatra coast, destroys Zhen’s fleet and kills five thousand of his men. Zhen himself is taken to Nanjing and executed. July 1411: Dredging and reconstruction of the northern section of the Grand Canal begins. Some 300,000 laborers clear 130 miles of channel and build or repair thirty-eight locks so shipments of grain and materials can be sped to the new Ming capital being built at Beijing. 1413–1415: In Zheng He’s fourth expedition, part of the fleet reaches Hormuz in Persia while another part touches at Somalia in

East Africa and Aden on the Arabian peninsula. July 1415: The southern section of the Grand Canal from the Yellow River to the Yangtze is completed. The canal becomes the main channel of north-south commerce. August 1419: Zheng returns from his fourth voyage with an exotic African menagerie for the emperor: lions, leopards, zebras, rhinoceroses, and giraffes. c. 1420: An estimated 100,000 artisans and other workers serve the Ming imperial household in Beijing. 1420: Tang Saier leads a peasant revolt in Shandong. Her forces are defeated and she is suspected of having disappeared into a nunnery. Ming authorities bring thousands of Buddhist and Daoist nuns to Beijing, but the rebel leader is never found. 1431–1433: Zheng He’s seventh (and last) seaborne expedition calls at Champa, Java, Sumatra, Malacca, the Malabar Coast of India, and Hormuz on the Persian Gulf. 1439: Grand Canal and the Yellow River burst their dikes, causing massive flooding, loss of life, and famine. 1445: Famine in Shanxi sends thousands of peasants onto the roads in search of food. Some are said to sustain life on wild plants and the bark of trees. 1448: Drought and locust plagues devastate North China.

Science-Technology, Economics, and Everyday Life Winter 1453–1454: Bitter cold claims tens of

thousands of lives. In some places snow lies deep on the ground for forty days and longer. Snows as far south as southern Hunan kill many cattle. Late 1480s: Chronic breaks in the Yellow River dikes in Shandong cause annual flooding that costs lives and interrupts commerce on the Grand Canal. 1493–1495: Some 120,000 laborers block, channel, and dike the Yellow River to alter the main channel to the southeast. The change relieves chronic flooding and will hold until the nineteenth century. 1545: First Japanese trading fleets visit Chinese pirate anchorages off the Zhejiang coast. An important pirate-controlled private trade grows up in defiance of strict government controls on foreign contact. April 1545: Dust storms destroy the North China winter wheat and barley crops. This comes after a long period of drought has led to widespread starvation in the northern provinces. January 1556: Earthquake devastates large areas of Shanxi and Shaanxi provinces; 800,000 people are said to perish in the Wei River valley alone. 1559: Drought afflicts the Yangtze delta, reducing rice stocks and driving up the price of grain. 1573: With the lifting of the trade ban, Chinese merchants make contact with the Spanish in the Philippines. Within a few years, trade flourishes between China and the Americas, with Chinese silks and porcelain exchanged in vast quantities for New World silver. Much of this commerce flows through Manila, the Spanish trading center in the Philippines. Along with silver, new plants such as sweet potatoes, peanuts, and maize are introduced to China. 1574: Ming authorities put up barrier wall at Macau to keep the Portuguese colonists inside. 1578: Portuguese traders are permitted to


travel up the Pearl River to do business at Guangzhou (Canton). 1593: The Pictorial Reference Compendium is published; it is a manual on agriculture, medicine, cooking, and other practical subjects. 1593: Construction begins on the Jia Canal, which is to run north-south, parallel to the silt-choked Grand Canal. 1599: Merchants in Linqing in Shandong province strike against high taxes and burn the Ming tax collector’s office in protest. 1601: Some ten thousand porcelain workers riot in protest of imperial demands for increased production. 1604: Porcelain workers riot for higher wages. 1606: Yunnan miners joined by disaffected army officers destroy the office of the detested eunuch mining superintendent; in retaliation, a thousand miners are killed. 1609: The 110-mile-long Jia Canal opens to traffic. 1621–1627: Major fires sweep Beijing, Hangzhou, and other major cities, destroying tens of thousands of dwellings and businesses. Winter 1628: Severe famine strikes Shanxi province; there are reports of cannibalism. 1630s: China’s trade with Spain (through the Philippines) and Japan picks up substantially. By estimate, some 2 million silver pesos a year flow into China from Manila. 1635: First English trading vessels reach China. 1639: Famine, epidemics, rebellion, and banditry cause widespread suffering. A folk song of this period charges the Lord of Heaven with Dereliction of duty:

Old Skymaster, You’re getting on, your ears are deaf, your eyes are gone. Can’t see people, can’t hear words. Glory for those who kill and burn. For those who fast and read the scriptures, Starvation.


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1639: Japan bans the lucrative century-old

trade between Nagasaki and Macau. A short time later, the Spanish act to reduce the silver flow into Manila and thus into China. The result is a sharp curtailment of the

China-Philippines trade. The silver shortage leads to deflation and serious social unrest, including tax defaults, rent riots, and the hoarding of grain.

Q I N G D Y N A S T Y: 1 6 4 4 – 1 9 1 2 1720: China ships 400,000 pounds of tea an-

nually to England. Also in this year, Chinese merchants in Guangzhou (Canton) form the guild or monopolistic trade association known as the Cohong—“combined merchant companies.” 1720s: With the spread of opium smoking, Qing authorities launch a crackdown on the trade. Punishment for luring someone into an opium den is strangulation. Dealers are banished to frontier military garrisons. Smokers are beaten with one hundred strokes of the rod. 1723: Eight thousand Suzhou-area silk and cotton workers (known as “calendarers”) strike for higher wages. They will strike again in 1729, again with little success. 1728: A Russian-Chinese commercial treaty permits one Russian trading caravan to journey to Beijing every three years, and allows a Russian Orthodox church to operate in the capital. 1729: England exports two hundred chests of opium, each holding 130 to 160 pounds of the drug, into China. The opium trade will grow as the west tries to right the balance of trade with China: the Chinese are far less interested in western products (except for weapons and medical technology) than westerners are in China’s silks, porcelain, and tea. Opium is one import the Chinese buy avidly. c. 1750: Cotton and tobacco culture are widespread in northeast China. This is a region of small holdings, with the average family plot running to 2.5 acres and holdings greater than 20 acres uncommon. Elsewhere, New World crops such as the sweet

potato, Irish potato, maize, and peanut are spreading and improving the Chinese diet. 1754: Imperial government makes the Cohong merchants liable for the behavior of foreign ships’ crews ashore in Guangzhou. 1759: Qing restricts all European trade to the city of Guangzhou (Canton). Foreign merchants are confined to their own quarter of the city and are allowed to live there only during the October to March trading season. 1759: The British East India Company emissary James Flint appeals to the Qing court to lift trade restrictions and stamp out corruption in Guangzhou. Flint is arrested and jailed for three years for presenting petitions improperly and other alleged violations. 1773: Foreign encounters with China’s legal system create tension. In this year, a Portuguese court in Macau finds an Englishman innocent of the charge of murdering a Chinese. Qing officials seize the acquitted man, try him in a Chinese court, and execute him. Such disputes build over the coming decades, leading to western demands that China surrender jurisdiction over western nationals in the country. 1784: First merchant vessels of the newly independent United States reach China. 1792: In Daoyi in southern Manchuria, surviving detailed demographic records show the average lifespan is around thirty-two years, mainly because of the high rate of infant mortality. Only 4 percent live beyond the age of sixty-five. 1800: China’s annual exports of tea to England total 23 million pounds, worth $3.6 billion, and around a seventh of all the tea sold in China.

Science-Technology, Economics, and Everyday Life 1800: Imports of opium from British India

reach four thousand chests a year. An addiction problem becomes evident in some parts of China; by the 1820s, enough opium enters the country to feed the habits of a million addicts. 1803: Flooding silts up the Grand Canal, slowing grain shipments to the Beijing region and boosting reformers’ proposals to reestablish a reliable sea transport route—a matter of recurrent debate since the Song. 1815–1850: A major outflow of silver, largely the consequence of the illicit British trade in opium, causes a long period of deflation and economic recession. Prices drop by half and more during these decades. A string of a thousand copper cash is roughly equivalent to one tael of silver at the close of the eighteenth century; by the 1830s the rate has fallen to 2,700 to 1. 1820s: Triad secret societies spread from Guangdong and Fujian north into the Yangtze provinces. The Triads are increasingly involved in rackets, banditry, and rebellion. 1827: During the conservative Qing dynasty, permanent widowhood comes to be exalted. By this year, so many memorial arches are being put up to honor faithful widows that the government rules only collective arches may be built. 1838: British export forty thousand chests of opium into China for a value of $18 million—making the drug the most valuable single trade commodity in the world. There are an estimated 12.5 million opium smokers in China. 1845: Serious food shortages in Beijing area lead Qing to use sea transport for grain shipments at the expense of the long-established canal routes. The shift leads to unrest among bargemen and others dependent on the canal system for their livelihoods. 1850–1900: Chinese emigration builds as the century advances. Contractors recruit Chinese laborers for Cuba, Peru, Hawaii, and


Sumatra. The migrants are called coolies, from the Chinese kuli, meaning “bitter labor.” By 1850 ten thousand Chinese are settled in Malacca (in today’s Malaysia); Chinese are the dominant minority in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. 1852: First Chinese laborers reach Hawaii. By the turn of the century 25,000 will be settled there. Mid-1850s: Annual value of the silk trade through the treaty port of Shanghai passes $20 million. Some twenty thousand chests of illegal opium also are imported through the booming port city, which is rapidly becoming China’s leading mercantile center. 1862: The scholar-official Zeng Guofan establishes the Anqing Arsenal for the manufacture of modern armaments. August 1868: With use of machinery purchased in the West, China launches the first home-built steamship, the Tianqi (“the Auspicious”), at an arsenal at Shanghai. 1872: The Qing official Li Hongzhang, a modernizer, helps found the China Merchants’ Steam Navigation Company. He becomes a principal shareholder in the company. Li also proposes halting construction of war junks entirely in favor of an all-steamship fleet. 1872: The Shenbao commercial newspaper in Shanghai hits a circulation of fifteen thousand. 1873: Half a million Chinese are settled in Singapore and vicinity. 1873: Chinese acquire United States-made Gatling machine guns for the Tianjin arsenal. 1874: A western missionary society for the suppression of footbinding is established in the coastal city of Xiamen (Amoy). 1875: An estimated 100,000 Chinese are working in Peru. 1876: China’s first railway opens near Shanghai. Conservative Chinese regard railroads as disruptive and inharmonious. The provincial governor, disapproving, orders the track torn up in 1877.


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1877: Qing undertakes a major expansion of

1900: More than 500,000 Chinese are settled

the Kaiping coal mines in North China. 1880: China’s first permanent railroad line opens. It connects the Kaiping mines to the port of Tianjin. 1880: Some 100,000 male Chinese are settled in the western United States, but only 3,000 Chinese women. Many migrants come as railroad workers and miners. Clashes with white Americans are frequent and sometimes violent. 1880s: China develops national cable and telegraph communications systems. 1882: United States imposes restrictions on Chinese immigration. 1890: The Hanyang Iron Works opens at Wuhan. 1890s: More than ten thousand workers are employed in modern factories in Hankou in the mid-Yangtze region. The workers suffer low wages, harsh working conditions, and substandard housing. 1893: China’s urban population is 23.5 million, or 4 percent of the total population. 1896: China has 300 miles of railroad, compared to 2,300 miles in Japan, 21,000 miles in Great Britain, and 182,000 miles in the United States. 1900: An estimated 10 percent of all Chinese are opium smokers. Some 15 million are said to be addicted to the drug.

in the Dutch East Indies (modern Indonesia). 1903: The Qing government establishes a Ministry of Commercial Affairs to promote economic development. 1903: The Shanghai Chamber of Commerce is established. It becomes a leading force in China’s economy. 1905: After a decade of foreign capital infusion and construction, China’s railroad network is around 4,000 miles. A north-south line links Beijing with the industrial region of Wuhan (the cities of Wuchang, Hankou, and Hanyang) on the mid-Yangtze. June 1905: To protest U.S. Chinese exclusion policies, merchants in Guangzhou (Canton), Shanghai, Xiamen, and Tianjin launch a boycott of American goods. It is effective; normal trade will not resume until September. 1907: The Beijing Chamber of Commerce is founded. It represents around 4,500 of the capital’s 25,000 commercial establishments. 1910–1911: Catastrophic flooding in the Yangtze and Huai valleys claims hundreds of thousands of lives, destroy millions of acres of crops, and send millions of refugees onto the roads in search of relief.

THE REPUBLIC: 1912–1949 1914: Young Chinese scientists trained in the

1916: Government sets up the Geological

United States establish the Science Society. The society’s journal will become influential. Foreign investment in China, concentrated in Shanghai and in southern Manchuria, reaches $1.61 billion. The leading investor is Britain, accounting for more than a third of the total, followed by Russia, Germany, and Japan. 1915: An American Chamber of Commerce opens in Shanghai with thirty-two members.

Survey of China. It sponsors the paleontological research that will lead to the discovery of Peking Man in 1929. 1920s: Sixty thousand rickshaw pullers are working in Beijing. 1920–1921: Severe drought leads to a devastating famine in North China. At least 500,000 die and nearly 20 million are destitute in Hebei, Shandong, Henan, Shanxi, and Shaanxi. Some villagers eat straw and leaves to survive.

Science-Technology, Economics, and Everyday Life 1920: Some 1,700 Chinese-owned industrial

enterprises employ 500,000 workers. China’s railroad network totals seven thousand miles, modest for a country of such great size; China’s national system, with around 3800 miles of track, employs 73,000 workers. Nanyang Tobacco Company of Guangzhou (Canton) sells 4 billion cigarettes a year. 1922: Forty-nine new cotton mills open in China. Large modern flour mills are established around Shanghai; cigarette and paper industries flourish in the Guangzhou area. North China collieries employ fifty thousand miners. January–March 1922: Strikes in Hong Kong and Guangzhou idle 120,000 seamen and dock workers. The strikers win pay raises and recognition of their union. 1927: Shanghai’s population reaches 2.7 million. 1928: Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek’s ally (and brother-in-law) T. V. Soong heads the newly established Central Bank of China. He launches reform efforts aimed at stabilizing China’s finances. June 9, 1928: Nationalist government founds the Academia Sinica. The academy sponsors research institutes and a National Science Council. 1930–1939: With the world’s developed economies in depression, China’s economy grows modestly during the decade. Output of electric power doubles. Post and telegraph services expand, regular airline routes are developed and 2,300 miles of railroad are built. Heavy taxation hinders China’s growth, however. In 1936, the once prosperous Nanyang Tobacco Company turns over 39 percent of its total income to the government in taxes. 1930: Nationalists issue civil law code that gives women the right to choose their husbands, reject marriage arrangements made when they were children, and inherit family property. Such laws have little immediate impact outside the cities, however.


In Shanghai, 170,000 women are employed in cotton mills and other factories. Around 50,000 women work as prostitutes in the city. 1930: Nationalist legislature adopts a Land Law that fixes a maximum rent of 37.5 percent of the harvest; it also allows tenants of absentee landowners to buy farms they have worked for at least ten years. It is never implemented, and rents remain at the 50–75 percent level. 1931: The Nankai Institute of Economics is founded. A five-year grant from the Rockefeller Foundation in 1932 helps the institute get on its feet. 1931–1935: Falling farm prices cause widespread economic hardship—1934 prices are 58 percent below those of 1931. Natural disasters—floods, droughts, hailstorms—devastate the countryside. The 1934 rice harvest, for one example, is 34 percent below the 1931 level. 1931: A new labor law mandates equal pay for women doing the same work as men. 1931: Yangtze flooding leaves 50,000 square miles under water and creates 14 million refugees. 1934: Nationalist government bans labor unions in Henan, Hubei, Anhui, Jiangxi, and Fujian provinces. Mid-1930s: Around nine hundred newspapers circulate in China, reaching a readership of 20–30 million. 1935: China’s official unemployment figure passes 5 million. Nationalist government surveys show that close to half of all rural householders own their own land and support their families by farming. Around a quarter—some tenants, some who own their farms—supplement their farm income with other work. The rest are classed as laborer/tenant householders who rely wholly on wage incomes. Nationalist government issues the fabi yuan unit of currency. November 1935: After two straight bad harvests, peasants in the Fuzhou area turn on


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their absentee landlords. When some tenants are arrested for failing to pay rent, thousands rise in protest. They destroy a police station and set fire to absentee owners’ houses; clashes continue intermittently through the winter of 1936. 1936: China imposes an income tax. Severe drought causes famine in Sichuan. Food riots break out in the cities; in Chongqing, the hungry strip the bark from the city’s ornamental trees. 1937–1945: Despite wartime dislocation, Communist land policies increase agricultural production. The amount of cultivated land in targeted North China districts under Communist control doubles during this period from 8.6 million mou (a mou is a sixth of an acre) to 15.2 million mou. Spring 1944: Famine strikes Henan, and tens of thousands starve to death. As Japanese forces advance, malnourished survivors attack retreating Nationalists, who continue to collect taxes and other levies during the worst months of the crisis. September 1945–February 1947: Wholesale prices in Shanghai increase thirtyfold. January 1946: Workers strike at the Shanghai Power Company. Forty local unions join the strike in early February, forcing the company to settle. In Shanghai alone there are more than 1,700 strikes and other labor disputes in 1946.

May 1946: The May Fourth Directive au-

thorizes land redistribution from the well-todo to the peasantry in areas of North China under Communist control. A complete expropriation of landlord property, including dwellings, will follow. 1946–1947: The Communists’ land redistribution program sometimes turns violent, especially in northern Jiangsu, Hebei, Shandong, and Shaanxi. People are forced to make confessions of guilt for all kinds of crimes against society. Late 1946: The unemployment rate is 30 percent in the Nationalist capital, Nanjing, and 20 percent in Guangzhou (Canton). 1947: Bubonic plague kills thirty thousand in the Manchurian industrial city of Harbin. The outbreak is traced to the Japanese release in August 1945 of flea-infested rats army researchers had used in germ warfare experiments. February 1947: Nationalist government attempts to impose wage and price ceilings. By May, they will be lifted as unworkable. July 1948: Nationalist government abandons the inflation-ruined fabi yuan currency for a new currency, the gold yuan. At the official exchange rate, 3 million fabi buy one yuan. August 1948: A standard 171-pound bag of rice sells for 63 million yuan.

THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC: 1949–1998 1949–1950: The new Communist govern-

ment takes over China’s banks and strictly regulates the currency. A new official currency, the renminbi (informally, the yuan) is introduced. The measures dramatically lower the country’s runaway inflation. May 1, 1950: China’s Marriage Reform law gives women the right to choose their marriage partners, initiate divorce, and inherit property. Several million marriages are ended by women during the law’s first five

years. Though the law remains on the books, the government moves to make obtaining a divorce more difficult and time-consuming. September 29, 1952: China opens the Longhai railroad linking Jiangsu with Lanzhou in Gansu. 1953: As part of China’s Five Year Plan for economic growth, workplaces are reorganized (or simply recategorized) as danwei (meaning units). The danwei, which replace companies or employers, often provide

Science-Technology, Economics, and Everyday Life

housing and social services along with employment. 1955: Government officially abolishes all wholly private business enterprises. July 13, 1956: Baoji-Chengdu railroad opens, linking northwest China with the southwest. April–August 1958: As part of the Great Leap Forward, the government initiates a new collectivization drive, moving to abolish private agricultural plots and merge rural collectives (production brigades and teams) into larger and larger communes. December 1958: The Communist Party Central Committee claims 740,000 cooperatives have merged into 26,000 communes with 120 million households. The government issues inflated figures for the 1958 harvest, claiming 375 million tons of grain when the actual total is around 215 million tons. Great Leap Forward mismanagement causes massive disruption in the countryside; poor harvests and government requisitions of food trigger three years of famine that claims at least 20 million lives. July–August 1959: Drought afflicts much of China; 30 percent of all cultivable land is affected. November 1, 1959: China opens its first tractor factory, in Luoyang. May 25, 1960: A Chinese expedition reaches the summit of Mount Everest. 1961: With the virtual elimination of private farming, hog production falls to 52 percent of the 1958 peak. June 1961: Chen Yun, a senior member of the Politburo, finds the Great Leap Forward in ruins during an inspection tour of the countryside around Shanghai. He recommends restoring small private plots to peasants and reopening private rural markets. 1962: With rapid economic development, industrial products now account for 51 percent of Taiwan’s exports, compared to only 7 percent in 1953. November 9, 1962: China and Japan sign long-term trade agreement. 1963: New oilfields at Daqing in northeast


China now produce two-thirds of the country’s oil. This frees China from dependence on Soviet oil imports. October 16, 1964: China explodes its first atomic bomb. 1965: Agricultural production recovers to preGreat Leap Forward levels. 1966–1969: Taiwan develops “export processing zones” that give tax incentives and other aid to exporters of manufactured goods. June 17, 1967: China explodes its first hydrogen bomb. 1968: Life expectancy in China is sixty years, up from forty years in 1953. This largely reflects reductions in infant mortality. December 29, 1968: A road bridge opens over the Yangtze at Nanjing. 1969–1970: China’s economy reaches full recovery after the disruptions of the Cultural Revolution. Most industries and agricultural operations reach or exceed 1966 levels. April 24, 1970: China launches its first satellite into space. August 16, 1972: Japanese inaugurate airline service between Japan and Shanghai. September 9, 1972: China agrees to buy ten long-range 707 jetliners from the Boeing Company. 1973: Turning away from “self-reliance,” China purchases $1 billion worth of industrial equipment—including entire plants— from the United States. 1975: The People’s Republic signs a joint venture agreement with Britain’s Rolls-Royce to build jet engines in China. 1975: Hu Yaobang, a prote´ge´ of Deng Xiaoping, becomes head of the prestigious Academy of Sciences in Beijing. He attempts to shield it from political interference. July 28, 1976: A massive earthquake shatters the city of Tangshan in Hebei province. The official death toll is 242,000, with another 164,000 seriously hurt. Late 1976: Zhao Ziyang, the Sichuan Communist Party leader, authorizes an expansion of private enterprise farming (up to 15 percent of the land in Sichuan communes). By


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1979, Sichuan grain production will increase 24 percent. Similar market initiatives in industry lead to a production increase of 80 percent from 1977 to 1979. March 1978: At a National Science Conference in Beijing, the government unveils a training program for 800,000 research workers and plans to develop new research centers. October 12, 1978: Regular air service begins between Hong Kong and Guangzhou (Canton). December 19, 1978: Boeing announces that China will buy three 747 jumbo jets; six days earlier, Coca Cola announced that it would build a bottling plant in Shanghai. April 1979: China’s leadership introduces “special economic zones” operating on market principles around four east coast localities: Zhuhai (near Macau), Shenzhen (opposite Hong Kong), Shantou, and Xiamen. April 17, 1980: China enters the International Monetary Fund. May 1980: China announces the successful launch of an ICBM with warhead delivery capability. May 15, 1980: The World Bank admits China. The bank will approve its first loan to China the following year. September 1980: The Communist leadership launches a strict population control program. Chinese families are encouraged to have only one child. A revised marriage law raises the legal marriage age to twenty-two for men and twenty for women. Women are encouraged to have their first—and last— child by age twenty-five. The government orders compulsory intrauterine devices for women with one child and compulsory sterilization for either husband or wife after the birth of a second child. January 7, 1981: CAAC, China’s civilian airline, begins New York-Beijing service. July 9–14, 1981: Sichuan floods kill 700 people and leave 150,000 homeless. 1982–1992: All but a few of British Hong Kong’s 3,200 toy factories relocate to main-

land Guangdong, where labor costs are low and profits high. 1982: Private income accounts for nearly 40 percent of a farm family’s total income, around double the proportion in 1964. 1983: China’s urban population is 23.5 percent of the total, compared to 10.6 percent in 1949. Millions are flowing from the country into the towns every year. 1983: Direct foreign investment in China is estimated at $910 million. 1984: The Central Committee issues Document Number 1, which acknowledges the virtual dismantling of the system of collectivized farming and establishes what is known as the “responsibility system.” In return for negotiated payments to the state, farmers may grow what they choose and keep whatever is left after they make their agreed-to deliveries. Plot assignments may be sold or inherited, though nominally the state still owns the land. The committee also extends special economic zone status to fourteen additional coastal cities and Hainan Island. 1984: Life expectancy in China is sixty-five years. September 1, 1984: China’s first nuclear reactor goes into service. Mid-1980s: A Chinese popular joke, mocking Maoist locutions, lists the “Eight Bigs” everyone must possess: a color television, a refrigerator, a stereo, a camera, a motorcycle, a suite of furniture, a washing machine, and an electric fan. Summer 1985: China sells two hundred military transport aircraft to private firms and provincial airlines. In the People’s Republic’s worst corruption scandal to date, officials of the Hainan Island enterprise zone illegally resell $1.5 billion worth of imported motor vehicles, television sets, and video recorders. 1986: The official cost of living index rises 12 percent. Unofficially, the increase is conceded to be considerably higher. Some 400,000 small- and medium-sized

Science-Technology, Economics, and Everyday Life

businesses produce 40 percent of China’s industrial output. Most firms are collectively owned, but a growing number are in private hands. Both types of ownership operate increasingly on market principles. August 3, 1986: China reports the first bankruptcy case in the People’s Republic’s history, that of a factory in Shenyang. September 26, 1986: The Shanghai stock exchange opens for the first time since 1949. May 1987: Forest fires burn 2.5 million acres in Heilongjiang province in northeastern China. 1988: Strikes appear here and there. In one strike 1,100 workers in a factory making medical appliances go off the job for three months. July 1989: Floods in Sichuan claim hundreds of lives and damage croplands; flooding in Zhejiang destroys ten thousand dwellings. 1992: Taiwan’s per capita income is second only to Japan’s in Asia. 1994: Construction begins on the longplanned Three Gorges Dam project on the Yangtze. Cost estimates range upward of $100 billion for what will be the largest hydroelectric project in history, creating a fourhundred-mile-long reservoir that will inundate 160 towns and force the relocation of


1.3 million people. Critics say it will severely damage the Yangtze environment. 1998: It is reported that by the end of 1997 foreign-invested companies employ some 11 percent of China’s nonagricultural workforce and account for some 14 percent of the country’s total annual industrial output. January 8, 1998: The director of China’s official statistics bureau announces that it is working to modernize the statistics technology and system to reflect the country’s growing economy. August 1998: Flooding from the Yangtze and its tributaries, the worst in four decades, leaves some 250 million Chinese homeless and several thousand dead. September 1998: The latest figures from Boeing show that China has bought onetenth of the firm’s aircraft in the past three years, that one of the world’s largest spareparts centers has been established by Boeing in Beijing, and that more than one-third of the 8,500 Boeing aircraft flying around the world are equipped with parts made in China. Despite these promising statistics, China announces that it is not ready to purchase more Boeing aircraft at this time, due to the unsettled nature of the world’s economies, particularly in Asia.

Japan p ol it ic a l h i s t o ry

PA L E O L I T H I C E R A : 2 0 0 , 0 0 0 ? – 1 0 , 5 0 0


Some five thousand archaeological sites to date provide an understanding of Japan in the Paleolithic (Stone Age), or Pre-Ceramic era. Despite considerable debate about the length and nature of the prehistoric chronology, a number of facts emerge. Originally Japan was linked to the Asian continent by land bridges to Siberia and Korea. Over these arrived the earliest peoples in successive waves of migration. Genetic and linguistic studies indicate that these ancestors, bearing Archaic Mongoloid traits, arrived from around Lake Baikal in Russian Central Asia, and later from Southeast Asia and China by way of Korea. Most major original migrations take place by the end of the Paleolithic era; and as these peoples intermix and adapt to environmental changes, they evolve to form the modern Japanese. Today only the aboriginal peoples of the north, the Ainu of Hokkaido, and of the extreme south, the Ryukyuans of Okinawa, remain ethnically distinct, bearing close connections to the peoples of prehistoric times. These Paleolithic peoples are hunters, fishermen, and gatherers of plant foods. Inhabiting seasonal temporary settlements, they live as self-sufficient, multigenerational family groups known as bands (made up of from 20 to 150 members). They leave behind fragmentary architectural remains; increasingly complex stone tools; sporadic burials, some with grave goods; and evidence of trading networks. B . C .: Sea recedes from the Kanto Plain around Tokyo, leaving the marine deposit known as the Shimosueyoshi Formation. From c. 130,000 to 13,000 b.c., several volcanic eruptions deposit distinct layers of ash atop the formation. This stratigraphic geological sequence will serve to date Paleolithic archaeological sites there and else-


where in Japan, with much scholarly debate about chronology. Crude stone tool assemblages, but no human fossil evidence, found at sites in Oita, Tochigi, and Miyagi prefectures are posited by excavators to be some 200,000 years old and to suggest the earliest immigration of Homo erectus to Japan.

Political History B . C .: According to some scientists, people migrating from Mongolia and Lake Baikal in Russian Central Asia introduce new tool types, including sawtooth knives, points, and knives made of flakes. 30,000 B . C .: The Early Paleolithic era ends and the Late Paleolithic era begins. 30,000–28,000 B . C .: The earliest fragmentary human remains to date originate from this time, proving the presence of Homo sapiens in Japan. 28,000–18,000 B . C .: Nomads cross over to Japan by means of the Korean land bridge until the passageway is flooded. 28,000–8,000 B . C .: Important discovery of human fossil remains in Okinawa proves the existence of Homo sapiens in this era. To date no earlier substantial remains of hominids, such as Homo erectus, have been found in Okinawa. 25,000–21,000 B . C .: Sites in the southern Kanto Plain yield assemblages of pebble tools and large flake tools, including axlike tools with edge grinding (signs of repair) and knifelike tools of obsidian (volcanic glass). Paleolithic dwelling sites, often on natural terraces near streams, yield scatters of stones, remains of hearths, post holes, storage pits, and crude circles of small stone, possibly used to secure temporary animal-skin shelters. 19,000–16,000 B . C .: Peak of the last Ice Age. Figurines found at Iwata, Honshu, dated to about 19,000 b.c., are the oldest known figurines made in Asia. Possibly as old are figurines found at Zazaragi, Honshu. 18,000 B . C .: The sea level drops and the islands of Kyushu, Shikoku, and Honshu become one land mass that may or may not still be connected to Korea by way of western



Honshu. Hokkaido is linked to Siberia. Deer, elk, and mammoth roam islands. In the north, scientists have found evidence of brown bear, steppe bison, Japanese horse, Asian wild ass, and moose. 18,000–16,000 B . C .: The Japanese land mass separates completely from the Asian mainland. 18,000–9,000 B . C .: Widespread use of obsidian tools (identifiable as to exact geological source) reveals obsidian trading networks over relatively long distances. 13,000 B . C .: A gradual environmental warming trend begins, northern Pleistocene (Ice Age) animals eventually become extinct, and the human population begins steadily to increase. 13,000–11,000 B . C .: Immigrants from northeast Asia arrive in Japan by way of Hokkaido. Hokkaido excavation yields pendantlike ornaments of this era, made of material brought from the Lake Baikal region, where it has been traded for Japanese obsidian. 11,000–10,000 B . C .: Earliest pottery fragments mark the end of the Japanese Pre-Ceramic or Late Paleolithic culture. 10,500 B . C .: The bow and arrow are introduced in hunting to replace wooden spears with stone points. Spears remain in use in Hokkaido until the fifth or sixth century a.d., when they are finally replaced by the bow and arrow there. At the end of the Paleolithic era, excavated sites indicate a settling-down process of nomadic bands in hunting camps. Burial sites with grave offerings, skilled stone toolmaking technologies, and far-reaching trade networks suggest high population density, relative complexity of social organization, and cultural exchanges with Asia.



JOMON PERIOD: 10,500–400


The Jomon period (named after its distinctive cord-marked pottery) comprises the Mesolithic and Neolithic (transitional and late Stone Age) eras and is known for its pottery production and its highly polished stone tools. The world’s oldest known pots have been excavated from Jomon sites and are unequaled in prehistoric times for aesthetic quality and variety of form and function. Makers and users of increasingly diverse stone and bone tools, the people are hunters, gatherers, and fishermen. During the period, the nomadic bands begin to inhabit villages, where they leave behind remains of ever larger ceremonial pit houses, elevated storage buildings, communal cemeteries, and ritual objects. In an era of rich food resources, they cultivate some edible plants and discover effective processing and storage methods for nuts and other plant foods. They develop new hunting and fishing techniques as well, leaving behind evidence of fish weirs and dugout canoes. As immigrants continue to arrive from Asia, the range of trade goods and networks broadens. The bands evolve into tribal groups probably ruled by councils of elders. Jomon culture extends throughout Japan, from Hokkaido in the north to Okinawa in the south. 10,500–8,000 BC: Incipient Jomon period.

Whether pottery-making originates in Japan or is brought from eastern Siberia is a subject of ongoing debate. Cord-marked pottery spreads through Honshu but does not reach Hokkaido. Habitation sites in caves and on rock shelves. 8000–5000 B . C .: Earliest form in Japan of rectangular pit houses, with earth-covered roofs, in circular arrangements. In western Japan, surface dwellings are built; from this time come the first examples of textiles in the form of twining and knitting of hemp and ramie fibers, as well as of simple embroidery. Near the end of this period pots with shell decoration appear. 7500–3500 B . C .: A dugout canoe (capable of carrying up to 1,100 pounds) and paddle from the era are found in the Torihama Shell Mound in Fukui Prefecture. 5000 B . C .: Thatched roofs are used on pit houses. 5000–3000 B . C .: Some Jomon groups begin to speak a proto-Japanese language. 5000–2500 B . C .: Regional pottery styles begin to diversify, although cord-marked pottery is still prevalent. In the Kanto region, development of pots with wavy rims or pouring spouts begins. New types of rituals objects

such as figurines, earrings, and bracelets appear. As a secondary source of food, people cultivate plants such as gourds, beans, and yams. They employ effective food processing and storage techniques, such as leaching of nuts. Acorn storage pits are dug in bogs to keep nuts over long periods. (In 1956, one such pit is found with nuts still able to sprout.) The first contacts are made between Kyushu and the Ryukyu Islands, where distinct tropical cultures flourish, with greater dependence on vegetarian food, few if any ritual items, and unique decoration of objects. 5000–2000 B . C .: Mean environmental temperatures rise by several degrees, resulting in more abundant food resources. 4000 B . C .: Sharp rise in sea level (to 16.4 feet or 5 meters above present-day level), reducing land area but increasing the shoreline and marine food supplies. Manufacture and use of a variety of fishing implements of stone, bone, and ceramic, including hooks, weights, pumice floats, spears, and harpoons. By this time comes the application of lacquer (from tree sap) in hues of red, black, and brown to waterproof and decorate

Political History

wooden, clay, and basketware objects, including vessels, combs, and ornaments. This technique may have come from China before 5,000 b.c. 2500 B . C .: Appearance of sizable buildings (1,080 square feet, or 100 square meters) made of mud-covered walls of interlaced branches. 2500–1500 B . C .: Middle Jomon period, the most prosperous Jomon period and peak of prehistoric artistic expression, with development of sculptural “flame-style” pottery vessels, apparently for daily use. New pottery types appear, including hanging lamps, footed pots, images of natural objects, and possible winemaking vessels. Most villages build very large communal structures (up to 2,153 square feet, or 200 square meters). Elevated houses are used for storage. Charred remains of breadlike food indicate use of grain. Communal cemeteries appear in central open squares of villages, with graves clustered possibly in family groups and probably sheltered by funerary structures. Jar burials of infants under house entrances. Evidence of hunting with traps, pits, and dogs. Sea level begins to drop. 1500–1000 B . C .: Late Jomon period. Evi-


dence of intervillage cooperation in use of fish weirs and of communal burials in areas surrounded by ring-shaped mounds. Development of reduction-fired black pottery. c. 1000 B . C .: By this millennium, Jomon people know how to cultivate dry land rice along with other plants but continue to rely mainly on hunting, gathering, and fishing. 1000–400 B . C .: Final Jomon period. Kamegaoka-style ceramics, such as shallow vessels, from Aomori Prefecture indicate new rituals. Introduction of salt production facilitates preservation of food, leads to increase in trade. 900 B . C .: Environmental cooling trend begins. 660 B . C .: Legendary date of beginning of reign of Jimmu, mythical first emperor of Japan. This ancestry for the imperial line is affirmed in a.d. 603 in the Asuka period to consolidate political power. 400 B . C .: People who cultivate rice by means of wet field methods arrive in Japan from Korea. This signals the beginning of the Yayoi period and the end of the Jomon era. In Hokkaido and northern Honshu, Jomon persists into historical times, where it is known as Epi Jomon until finally superseded by Ezo, or Satsumon, culture.

YAY O I P E R I O D : 4 0 0

B.C. –A.D.


The Yayoi period is named after its characteristic reddish-orange, smooth pottery type, first excavated in 1884 in the Yayoi-cho district of Tokyo. The Jomon and Yayoi cultures coexist for several generations until the Yayoi emerges dominant. The major innovations of the Yayoi period come from the Asian mainland. From Korea come the techniques of wet-field rice farming, which lead to the construction of complex irrigation and drainage systems. From China come the objects and metallurgy of bronze and iron (contrary to most cultures, Japan undergoes the Bronze Age and Iron Age at about the same time). Trade and immigration bring in such goods as iron tools for agriculture and ceremonial bronze weapons, along with luxury items such as polished bronze mirrors and glass beads. Artisans arrive from the Asian mainland to introduce such crafts as bronze casting, ironmaking, glassmaking, weaving, and sophisticated woodworking techniques. Japan becomes a highly stratified society of rulers and ruled, as rice paddies multiply and fortifications surround villages. Agriculture and warfare gradually spread throughout the coun-



try. Luxury items and rituals objects are used to indicate power in the political sphere and to indicate high status in increasingly elaborate and segregated burials. In this era of rapid social change, Japan moves from tribal society to a country of numerous regional polities, or “kingdoms,” connected by ritual, trade, and competition. 400–300 B . C .: Initial Yayoi period. Rice paddy

cultivation begins in early center of Yayoi culture in northwest Kyushu, the island across the strait from Korea; people begin to live in agricultural villages. The adoption of rice culture brings in from Asia new cycles of tradition, including festivals, deities, and social customs. 300–200 B . C .: Early Yayoi period. Yayoi culture extends from northwest Kyushu throughout western Japan. Fortification of villages begins in the form of moats and palisades. c. 200 B . C .: Korean bronze objects arrive in Japan. 100 B . C . – A . D . 100: Middle Yayoi period. Center of power moves northeast from Kyushu to Honshu’s Kinai region and Nara. Pottery is often decorated on a revolving turntable, as new types of vessels emerge, such as two-level steamers for cooking rice. Jomon deep cooking pots and large Korean storage jars are produced in great quantities. Chinese bronze mirrors are imported to Japan where they become cult objects. Silkworm cocoons come from Korea; spinning and weaving begin with silk, hemp, and ramie. Domestic glass production of beads begins with raw material from Korean peninsula. Domestic production of bronze objects begins, using raw material from Asia or melteddown items: production is mainly of ritual objects such as wide-bladed daggers or large decorated bells (dotaku). Native ironworking begins in northern Kyushu, mainly to make utilitarian objects and tools. In the following era, iron is preferred for armor and weaponry.

High sea levels flood some agricultural areas, dislocating inhabitants, and thus possibly leading to warfare. Other causes of war are competition for trade goods and routes (on which the importation of raw materials such as iron depends). A . D . 57: According to the Chinese chronicle Hou Han shu (written in a.d. 445), the Han emperor Guangwu presents a gold seal to a chief from northern Kyushu. The chronicle also describes a tribute mission from Wo (or Wa, as Chinese call Japan) in this year. 100–250: Late Yayoi period. Pottery production shifts from households to specialized craft shops. Iron sickles replace stone reaping tools. The remains of a domesticated cow are found in a site from this era. A keyhole-shaped burial mound, characteristic of Kofun period, is built in the Kinai region. c. 107: According to the Hou Han shu, the king of Na in Kyushu, the southernmost island of Japan, sends tribute of 160 slaves to China. 170–180: According to the Chinese chronicle Wei zhi (a.d. 297), thirty chiefdoms of Wa (Japan) are at war with each other. Fighting ends when Priestess-Queen Himiko of Yamatai proves dominant and unites the chiefdoms as supreme leader. 239: According to a chronicle, Himiko sends a representative to the Chinese Wei emperor. Himiko is named Xin Wei Wo Wang (Monarch of the Wa, Friendly to Wei). c. 250: A group of powerful chiefs in Kinai region comes to dominate the Yayoi. Confederacies of chiefs exchange prestige goods as tokens of alliance and power. Warfare spreads over Japan as wealth concentrates increasingly in hands of a few.

Political History


KOFUN PERIOD: 250–600 The Kofun period is named after the era’s mounded earth tombs, often encircled with haniwa, or hollow clay figures of soldiers, priests, servants, dancers, mourners, animals, houses, and boats. At times surrounded by moats, most of the ten thousand known kofun—round, square, and uniquely keyhole-shaped—are in the Yamato region south of Kyoto. The grandeur of these mausoleum tombs reflects the emergence of a single ruling dynasty, the Yamato court, and the move toward a unified state. Further social stratification leads to official ranking of aristocratic families, the development of a warrior elite, and craft specialization. Overseas trade intensifies, requiring the construction of warehouses and ports, and leading to the introduction of Chinese writing and Buddhism via Korea. Buddhism transforms Japan, creating a motive for the spread of literacy, the building of architecturally impressive temples, and the manufacture of exquisite ritual objects, as well as for changes in dietary habits and funerary practices. Toward the end of the era, as the central administrative bureaucracy grows, the Yamato rulers seek alliances with powerful local chieftains, resulting in a decrease in warfare and an advance in order and control. c. 350: A single ruling family claims descent

500–600: Late Kofun period. Horses become

from the sun goddess, and the Yamato court is established in the Nara Prefecture region. The ruler is the war leader of other kingships or chiefdoms. 369: According to tradition, after Japan defeats the Korean state of Silla, the Japanese colony of Mimana is founded on the Korean peninsula. 372: According to tradition, the ruler of the Korean state of Paekche sends the SevenBranched Sword to the king of Wa. Inscribed with the date of a.d. 369, it is now at Isonokami shrine. Sword inscriptions in Chinese characters are among the earliest examples of writing in Japan. 400–500: Middle Kofun period. About a.d. 400 the Yamato dynasty commences. They institute the be (specialized occupation groups) system of administration and of ranks to supervise the craft production of goods for the court. Lineage, rank, and titles remain an intense Japanese concern. The Yamato throne is passed down according to consensus of important families. 421–478: Five Yamato kings, also known as Five Kings of Wa, send tributes to the court of the Chinese Liu Song dynasty.

valued political gifts and status items; elaborate saddles and bridles, along with military weapons, are found in aristocratic burials. 507: Keitai (reigns 507–531?) ascends the throne and orders aristocratic houses to document family histories. These records are later used for the first Japanese chronicles. 512: An emissary from Paekche, Korea, requests that four districts of Mimana, or Kaya, be recognized as part of Paekche. The Yamato court finally yields. 527: The Iwai Rebellion in northern Kyushu is quickly suppressed by Yamato forces diverted from Korea. The rebel chief had refused to provide troops and supplies for the expedition against Silla, Korea. 529: Japanese commander Keno no Omi leads sixty thousand troops to Korea to try to recapture areas of Mimana taken by Silla. Failing to do so, he is recalled in disgrace and dies on the way back. In 539 Japan sends another unsuccessful expedition in aid of Paekche. 531: Henceforth, at the coronation of the emperor, in whose selection his predecessors now have more influence, the “Three Sacred Treasures”—a mirror, a sword, and carved



jewels (magatama)—symbolize his supreme position. c. 550: The Inland Sea area is consolidated under Yamato control to secure vital navigation routes to the Asian mainland. All regional chieftains ostensibly owe loyalty to the Yamato ruler. 554: According to a chronicle, Japan sends military aid (one thousand men, one hundred horses, and forty ships) to Paekche, threatened by the alliance of Silla and Koguryo.

c. 569: Silla has taken over all Mimana terri-

tory. 592: Assassination of Emperor Sushun (reigns

587–592) by Soga. 593: Soga Empress Suiko (reigns 593–628) as-

cends the throne, with nephew Prince Shotoku (574–622) ruling as regent. The first woman to occupy the throne in historic times, she uses the title tenno, or emperor, for the first time.

ASUKA PERIOD: 600–710 As the last stage of the Kofun period, this period takes its name from the Asuka region in southern Nara, which becomes the Yamato dynasty’s capital, environs for various palaces, and site of many early Buddhist temples. Because of the written documentation that survives, Asuka is considered Japan’s first historical period. Serving as regent, Prince Shotoku implements a wide-ranging set of reforms to consolidate the power of the imperial line and to introduce Chinese-style bureaucratic administration. Also a strong patron of Buddhism, he encourages the competitive building of temples. In mid-century begins a series of bloody succession battles, alternating with periods of rigorous reform, notably the Taika Reform, that further increase imperial power, reorganize the rank system, and expand the bureaucracy. Civil and penal codes are issued to cement internal social order, while disastrous military ventures in Korea raise fears of invasion, leading to renewed construction of defenses. Eventually diplomacy proves effective. Japan now is a nation-state, borrowing profusely from Chinese institutional models but yet developing its own unique political ideology, worldview, and national character. 600: Japan sends its first official diplomatic

delegation to China. 603: Prince Shotoku begins to transform the political landscape by introducing Chinese bureaucratic practices, with selection for office strictly by rank and then promotion by merit. Following the Korean example in the states of Paekche and Koguryo, he institutes the system of Twelve Cap Ranks, assigning hereditary royal attendants to twelve ranks marked by distinct regalia. As court officials they now are to owe loyalty directly to ruler, lessening ties to each other. The ideology of an unbroken imperial ancestry, beginning in 660 b.c. with the sun goddess, is set in place, giving supreme legitimacy to imperiallineage.

But when those above are harmonious and those below are friendly, and there is concord in the discussion of business, right views of things spontaneously gain acceptance. Then what is there which cannot be accomplished? Seventeen-Article Constitution of Prince Shotoku (604)

604: Shotoku issues the “Seventeen Article

Constitution,” which seeks to codify new political institutions, including centralization of government and official retitling of ruler as tenno (Heavenly Sovereign). The emperor is to rule supremely and be owed com-

Political History

plete obedience by clan leaders, as well as other subjects. Provincial governors and chieftains can no longer levy their own taxes. 607: Shotoku sends mission to the Chinese emperor, bearing a letter that for the first time describes Japan as “Land of the Rising Sun” and refers to China as “Land of the Setting Sun,” thus implying relationship of equality between the two states, thereby offending the Chinese. He also sends missions in 608 and 614. 622: Shotoku dies. Not only an effective ruler but also religious and scholarly, he writes commentaries on Buddhist sutras and supports the foundation of monasteries. In the eighth century he becomes the focus of a religious cult and is held by some to be an incarnation of Buddha. (As an honored cultural icon, he will be portrayed on the modern ten thousand-yen banknote.) 645: A coup d’e´tat overthrows oppressive Soga rulers. Successful plotter and clan chief Nakatomi no Kamatari is rewarded with the new family name of Fujiwara. Three of his granddaughters will marry into the royal family. For five hundred years Fujiwara remains the most influential family at imperial court. The capital is moved to Naniwa on Osaka Bay. Reforms from this time to the end of the century, centralizing state power on the Chinese model, collectively are referred to as the ritsuryo system. 646: Emperor Kotoku (reigns 645–654) issues what becomes known as Taika (Great Change) Reform edict to increase imperial power over land and manpower, to reduce influence of leading families at court, and to create an economic system to finance new political administration. Eight state ministries under the Dajokan (Grand Council of State) oversee reforms. Later, to fill bureaucratic positions, the rank system is expanded to nineteen from twelve, with appointment and promotion to be based more on merit than status. 663: In the Battle of Hakusukinoe, after two


years of fighting in aid of Paekche against Silla and China on the Korean peninsula, Japan suffers its worst defeat of early times, possibly losing ten thousand men, a thousand horses, and four hundred ships. This ends Yamato aspirations for a foothold in Korea. Following defeat, more than sixty Paekche aristocrats flee to Japan; they bring new knowledge and technology from Asia. By 684, Korean families who achieve status as important government officials are accorded the high rank of muraji. 668: Emperor Tenji (reigns 661–672) issues the Omi Code, a set of civil and penal laws. 670: A statewide census is carried out to facilitate taxation and military conscription. It claims some 3.5 to 5 million population, with life expectancy of twenty-eight to thirtythree years, dwelling mostly in agricultural villages. 672: After a violent civil war over succession (Jinshin Disturbance), Emperor Temmu (reigns 672–686) ascends the throne and increases power by reorganizing the rank system; he also upgrades Ise shrine, where ancestral kami of imperial family are worshipped. In consolidating authority, the ancient role of emperor as spiritual leader and high priest of kami worship supersedes his role as patron of Buddhism. 675: In an attempt to eliminate hereditary aristocratic power over land and people, Temmu calls for system of regional units (kuni) to be directly administered by central government. In 681 he establishes historical commission to legitimize imperial authority. 689: Based on Chinese principles and commissioned by Temmu, the Asuka-Kiyomihara Code is promulgated. Empress Jito (reigns 686–697) decrees that in each province one-quarter of all healthy males between twenty and sixty years of age are to undergo annual military training. Emperor Mommu (reigns 697–707) later increases this number to one-third and calls for each



province to maintain one army corps. These measures increase power of governors, eventually lessening imperial authority. 694: The new Chinese-style capital city of Fujiwara is built north of Asuka, with a permanent palace, ministerial buildings, and a grid street plan. Ceremonial, administrative, and including Buddhist temples, the city will remain in use for only sixteen years.

c. 700: A system of eight ranks, started in 684,

is codified; officials below the sixth rank cannot be promoted without special decree. 702: Emperor Mommu issues the Taiho Civil Code, which delineates duties of officials and responsibilities of state agencies. The Taiho Penal Code stays in force until 757. Both codes are based on the Asuka-Kiyomihara Code.

NARA PERIOD: 710–794 In 710 the imperial capital is moved to a new site at Nara, on the southern end of the island of Honshu. A hopeful keynote of the century is to be peace: the new capital is constructed with neither moat nor defensive walls. During this early period of what is known as Classical Japan, the country develops into a truly world-class culture. Chinese influence continues to inform the areas of politics, religion, the arts, and technology. The Chinese-style ritsuryo system of government prevails. In it, an authoritarian, bureaucratic, and centralized hierarchy is headed by the emperor who is served by officials appointed by him and loyal to him, and which is administered by the Dajokan (Grand Council of State) that oversees eight ministries and the provincial governors. A centralized system of census, taxation, and landholding is set in place. As the state religion, Buddhism leads a vigorous campaign of temple-building in the capital and provinces. Nara artistic accomplishments in Buddhist-inspired architecture and statuary (known as Tempyo culture) are rivaled in the realm of letters. The early Japanese historical chronicles Kojiki and Nihon Shoki, together with the first poetry anthology, the Man’yoshu, appear, marking these decades as the era of the birth of Japanese literature. Serious social and political problems underlie the glittering surface. While the land holdings of the aristocracy and religious foundations are exempt from tax, heavy state expenditures on temple-building and on the large administrative bureaucracy are financed by a severe tax burden on peasants, who are also subject to prolonged periods of labor conscription. Poverty, malnutrition, and homelessness are widespread among the lower classes. Throughout the era, often violent power struggles in court threaten to destroy government authority and destabilize the nation. 710: Imperial capital is moved from Asuka

and established at Nara. Materials from Fujiwara palace structures are used to build new city of Heijokyo on site west of presentday Nara. 717: Minister Fujiwara no Fuhito begins to compile Yoro administrative codes to strengthen the bureaucracy. These are finished after his death and promulgated in 757. 724: A rebellion of the Ezo (Ainu) people in

northeast Honshu is quelled after eight months with the capture of more than six hundred prisoners. 729: The powerful political figure Prince Nagaya, apparently falsely accused by the Fujiwara family of plotting rebellion, is ordered by the emperor to commit suicide. 737: An expeditionary force to Ezo territory achieves relative peace until 774. The region is overseen by the fortress at Taga and by other military outposts.

Political History 738: A law that each household must provide

one able-bodied person for military service is rescinded. 740: After the death of four Fujiwara brothers from smallpox and loss of Fujiwara influence at court, Fujiwara no Hirotsugu, who has been demoted to Kyushu, assembles a rebel army of some twelve thousand to fifteen thousand soldiers there to restore Fujiwara status. A government force of seventeen thousand crushes the rebellion and executes him. Izanagi no Mikoto and Izanami no Mikoto consulted together, saying: “We have now produced the Great-eight-island country, with the mountains, rivers, herbs, and trees. Why should we not produce someone who shall be lord of the universe?” They then together produced the Sun Goddess. Nihongi (Chronicles of Japan) (8th century)

749: Emperor Shomu (reigns 724–749) is the

first ruler to renounce the throne to become a Buddhist monk. Empress Koken (reigns 749–758) is enthroned, and she declares a new era of Tempyo shoho, or “Heavenly Peace and Victorious Buddhism.” 750: The height of Chinese-style government in Japan, with a docile army. 757: In a failed coup d’e´tat, government head Fujiwara no Nakamaro quells Tachibana no Naramaro’s push to seize power, an ostensible attempt to improve the peasants’ dismal condition. 758: Nakamaro sends officials out to hear peasants’ complaints and to help the poor. He cuts the zoyo tax (requiring sixty labor days per year) in half and commutes debt interest. In government reforms, he renames ranks and ministries and encourages filial piety and Confucian behavior. 762: Allegedly using occult powers, Buddhist priest Dokyo cures Empress Koken of illness, apparently comes to share “the same


pillow,” and subsequently is elevated to high status in court. 764: Fujiwara no Nakamaro attempts a coup d’e´tat with provincial militia and clashes with government forces, which seize and execute him. Former Empress Koken returns to the throne as Empress Shotoku (reigns 764–770). Possibly because of her behavior, she will be the last empress for eight hundred years. 765: Dokyo is appointed minister of state and in 766 is named Buddhist king (Ho-o), the highest positions ever held by a commoner. After Empress Shotoku’s death he is exiled to the provinces. 774: Hostilities renew in Tohoku region in northeastern Honshu with a rebellion in Mutsu province. Sporadic warfare rages until 812 as the state sends out a sizable imperial expeditionary forces in 776, 788, 794, 801, and 811. Wars contribute to the national depletion of men and materiel. The heavy burden of provisioning and of the military draft on Kanto provinces leads to rising violence there. 780: Emperor Konin (reigns 770–881) downsizes the bureaucracy and sets limits on interest payments. During his reign he tries to reduce government expenditures, discipline officials and monks, and eliminate departments administering temple construction. Tax income continues to fall. 784: Following political instability, financially draining wars, and possible threat to imperial authority by powerful Nara Buddhists, Emperor Kammu (reigns 781–806) attempts to revive the ritsuryo system and moves capital to Nagaokakyo, west of what is now Kyoto. Building of the new city is bedeviled by bad omens, succession conspiracies, murders, and deaths from mysterious illnesses. With the posthumous promotion of murdered Prince Sawara to emperor in order to end bad luck, these troubles apparently cease. But after a decade of costly construction, the project is abandoned.



792: Government abolishes virtually all uni-

versal military conscription for provincial militia and puts an end to the border guard and capital guard system.

The imperial capital moves to new Heiankyo (now Kyoto) site, initiating the Heian period. The old capital city Nara eventually withers away.


HEIAN PERIOD: 794–1185 The Heian period, named after the new capital Heiankyo (Capital of Peace and Tranquillity), is regarded as the golden age of Classical Japan. In the milieu of one of the most refined courts ever, a uniquely Japanese literature bursts forth in full glory. Using the new Japanese phonetic syllabary, aristocratic women write the first known novel, The Tale of Genji; the quirky Pillow Book; and diaries that document a playful, inventive life that centers around elaborate protocol and ritual, love affairs, luxurious pomp and display, and the cult of beauty. The emperor fades into the background as rival courtier families strive for supremacy, resulting in the Fujiwara Regency. Uncles and grandfathers rule from behind figurehead child emperors who are forced to abdicate when they become old enough to have minds of their own. The Regency gives way to a not so different insei, or cloister government, in which retired emperors in Buddhist monasteries rule from behind the throne. The insei rely more and more on rising military families to protect their interests and to maintain order in the land. With the move to Heiankyo, the overbearing Nara Buddhists are left behind, and Buddhism begins to splinter into the esoteric cults of Tendai and Shingon and the evangelical Jodo-sho, also known as the Pure Land Sect. It is the best of times for the nobility and religious institutions, who are able to build up vast land holdings known as shoen, but it is the worst of times for the lower classes who suffer from exorbitant taxes, harsh landlords, famines, epidemics, and what seems like countrywide lawlessness as bands of robbers and pirates roam the provinces at will and rebel factions repeatedly challenge an ever weaker central government. It all ends in an epic civil war from which a heroic warrior family emerges, ready to take up the reins of power. 794: Heiankyo (present-day Kyoto) becomes

the grand new capital, which it remains until 1868. The city is laid out in a Chinesestyle grid. To eliminate the influence of Nara Buddhists, only two temples are allowed within the capital; others are to be outside the city limits. 806: The height of imperial power ends with the death of Emperor Kammu. Following succession struggles and court cabals, Fujiwara ministers and regents eventually take control. 810: In the Kusuko Incident, Emperor Heizei (reigns 806–809) decides to abdicate in favor of his younger brother Emperor Saga (reigns 809–823). Fujiwara no Kusuko, his favorite, fearing the loss of Fujiwara influence, per-

suades him to reconsider. He secretly assembles an army, but the plot is discovered, and Kusuko poisons herself. Thus the Hokke branch of Fujiwara rises to power. 811: The Tohoku people are forcibly evacuated to other provinces to break up their resistance; instead, they help spread rebellion elsewhere. 842: The Jowa Conspiracy occurs when Fujiwara no Yoshifusa seeks to eliminate the Tomo family and other rivals at court. Officials apparently unjustly accused of plotting to seat new emperor are exiled. 858: Fujiwara family dominance is complete when Fujiwara no Yoshifusa installs his grandson as Emperor Seiwa (reigns 858– 876), with himself ruling as regent (sessho).

Political History

Seiwa is the first child emperor and first male to have a regent, while Yoshifusa is the first commoner in this position. Regency continues after Seiwa comes of age. 866: In an early case of antigovernment disorder, the Battle at Hirono River takes place when military forces of Mino and Owari provinces clash over water rights. The battle marks deteriorating social and economic conditions in the countryside. 866: In the Otemmon Conspiracy, a power struggle among court families continues when the Otemmon Gate of the imperial palace is burned. Fujiwara no Yoshifusa exploits the incident to eliminate all rivals at court. 878: A six-month revolt begins in Dewa province after a bad harvest and famine. 884: Fujiwara no Mototsune becomes regent for Emperor Koko (reigns 884–887); he takes the title of kampaku for the regent of an adult emperor. 887: Ako incident occurs when Fujiwara no Mototsune, who expects to continue as regent on accession of Emperor Uda (reigns 887–897), is instead named ako (the title of the ancient Chinese regent, a nominal post with no real power). He forces Uda to back down and reappoint him as kampaku, or regent. Only after Mototsune’s death in 891 does Uda try again to free himself from the Fujiwara regency. 894: The imperial court ends official missions to China, marking the decline of Chinese influence on Japanese culture, though the Heian court continues its fascination with all things Chinese. Such arbitrary isolation creates a self-contained universe, allowing for the development of uniquely Japanese culture of arts and letters. 901: The court grants new military powers to provincial governors to quell domestic violence. The measure keeps relative peace for thirty-five years and lays the groundwork for the eventual rise of the warrior class. 903: Sugawara no Michizane (845–903), sage, government minister, and the most formi-


dable rival of Fujiwara, through Fujiwara machinations is sent away to “govern” Dazaifu in Kyushu, where he dies in exile. Later catastrophes in the capital—fires, droughts, floods, premature deaths—are attributed to his angry ghost. Twenty years after his death, Michizane is rehabilitated to his former status; seventy years later, he is elevated to prime minister. Worshipped at Shinto shrines where he is deified as Tenjin, he becomes the patron of calligraphy and poetry, of those suffering injustice, and of students preparing for exams; later he is the hero of a famous kabuki play. 932–941: Fujiwara no Sumitomo leads an alliance of pirates in western Japan, commanding as many as a thousand ships on the Inland Sea and inflicting violence against provincial headquarters in the form of a tax revolt as famines and epidemics spread. The imperial army and navy finally defeat pirate forces. Losing eight hundred ships and hundreds of soldiers, Sumitomo is captured and beheaded. 935–940: Warfare begins in earnest on the Kanto Plain as Taira no Masakado fights his kin in a family dispute. Despite widespread damage, the court ignores the war for four years. He eventually conquers all of the Kanto region and declares himself “new emperor.” The provincial military force, under orders from the court, defeats and beheads him. This rebellion and a pirates’ revolt give rise to the later Kanto independence movement led by Minamoto no Yoritomo. He never fails To reach the Lotus Land of Bliss Who calls, If only once, The name of Amida. Koya (10th century)

967–1068: At the height of the Heian era dur-

ing the Fujiwara Regency, the hierarchy is realigned as the Fujiwara achieve suprem-



acy by Machiavellian elimination of rival families, intermarriage with the imperial family, and forced abdications of emperors at a young age while they still are malleable. Emperors are kept busy with ritual and ceremonies while Fujiwara regents (usually their uncles and grandfathers) exercise power. 995: Fujiwara no Michinaga (966–1028) becomes head of the Fujiwara family. The greatest statesman of the era, he rules Japan for some thirty years from behind the throne during the golden age of Heian court culture. Living in greater luxury than the imperial family, he apparently is the model for the hero of the Tale of Genji, and he leaves behind his own diary, Mido kampakuki. 1019: Three thousand members of the Manchurian Jurchen tribe begin a week-long invasion of northern Kyushu, attacking a government garrison near Dazaifu. After sea battles and land fighting, the Jurchens are forced to sail back to the mainland. 1028–1031: In an alleged protest against excessive taxation, Taira no Tadatsune attacks the provincial headquarters of Awa and burns the governor to death. Before a court expedition crushes his rebellion, he ravages five provinces with a scorched-earth policy, causing the devastation of farmlands and setting back the Kanto region’s economic growth by generations. Provincial disorders that follow have similar effect. c. 1050: By the latter half of the century, the name of Heiankyo is changed to Kyoto (a word meaning “capital”). Clearly then, it is no part of the storyteller’s craft to describe only what is good or beautiful. Sometimes, of course, virtue will be his theme, and he may then make such play with it as he will. But he is just as likely to have been struck by numerous examples of vice and folly in the world around him. . . . They are more important. Thus anything whatsoever may become the subject of a novel. The Tale of Genji, by Murasaki Shikibu (11th century)

1051–1062: In the Earlier Nine Years’ War,

imperial forces carry on an intermittent campaign to subdue the Abe family of Mutsu province in northeastern Honshu. The Abe invade the neighboring region and refuse to send tax revenues to court. 1068: In the absence of a Fujiwara descendant, Emperor Go-Sanjo (reigns 1068–1073) is allowed to ascend the throne. He resists Fujiwara influence to some extent, beginning the decline of Fujiwara Regency. 1081: Violent clerical demonstrations begin as some one thousand Buddhist monks from Enryakuji, two hundred of them armored and armed, move on the capital. This and subsequent protests—in 1107, 1113, 1139, 1169, and 1177—are spurred by Buddhist sectional rivalries and by opposition to court appointments and government weakness in the face of growing domestic disorder. 1087: Insei, or “cloister government,” begins after Emperor Shirakawa (reigns 1072–1086) abdicates; it remains in effect until 1192 during the Kamakura era. While reigning emperors head the traditional court and bureaucracy, former emperors (usually emperors’ fathers or grandfathers) assert control through their own retinues, with administration located in Buddhist monasteries (most emperors abdicate to become Buddhist monks in retirement). The insei system lasts intermittently in some form until 1840. 1129: Former emperor Shirakawa dies, leaving the imperial house in its strongest position in three hundred years. 1146: Taira no Kiyomori (1118–1181) becomes governor of the province of Aki on the western Inland Sea. 1156: In the Hogen Disturbance, after the death of retired emperor Toba (reigns 1107– 1123), the faction of retired emperor Sutoku (reigns 1123–1141) tries to seize power and is crushed by the combined forces of Minamoto no Yoshitomo and Taira no Kiyomori. They support reigning emperor Go-Shirakawa (reigns 1155–1158), who retains the throne and control of the imperial house.

Political History

Real power now passes to great warrior families—the Taira, also known as Heike, and the Minamoto, also known as Genji—who begin a contest for supremacy. 1160: In the Heiji Disturbance, Minatomo no Yoshitomo seizes power with the aid of “disgruntled courtiers,” imprisons Emperor Nijo (reigns 1158–1165), and makes new appointments. Taira no Kiyomori returns from pilgrimage to put down the coup; Yoshitomo is captured and killed. Thus Minamoto influence is swept from court, leaving the Taira faction firmly in control. 1167: The court orders Taira no Shigemori to “pursue and destroy” robbers in eastern Honshu and pirates in Kyushu who steal tax revenues. 1177: Regarded by court as a rustic and ruthless upstart, Taira no Kiyomori takes control of the imperial forces. Kiyomori’s infant grandson will be installed as Emperor Antoku (reigns 1180–1185), consolidating Taira power.


In the Shishigatani Affair, the anti-Kiyomori faction plots to seize power but is betrayed. A second plot in 1180, led by Minamoto no Yorimasa and Prince Mochihito, ends in a losing battle at Byodo-in temple. There the wounded Yorimasa commits suicide and the prince is captured and killed, but his edict calling for a general uprising of Minamoto and their supporters against the Taira leads others to action. 1180: In the Great Civil War, also known as the Gempei War, initiated by a succession struggle, Minamoto and Taira armies begin to fight across central Japan. April 25, 1185: By cunning, finally, the Minamoto force the Taira to sail to the western end of the Inland Sea. There, in the Battle of Dan no Ura, two navies of some one thousand ships clash, with the Minamoto emerging victorious. Taira no Kiyomori’s widow, with her grandson Emperor Antoku, leaps into the sea, followed by her courtiers; other Taira are chased and killed. This battle ends Japan’s Classical Age.

KAMAKURA PERIOD: 1185–1333 As the Middle Ages begin, Japan becomes one country with two systems. The emperor, his court, their way of life, and the imperial administration continue in Kyoto, while Minamoto no Yoritomo establishes his military regime, or shogunate, in Kamakura, which becomes the country’s de facto capital. In effect, the provincial warrior class rises to replace the nobility in authority and power. This is the first of a series of shogunates that will rule Japan until the middle of the nineteenth century. The goal of the shogunate is to establish law and order in the land and to create the political and judicial institutions for doing so. These changes lead to the virtual elimination of the Chinese-style ritsuryo system. The shogun heads a hierarchy of military vassals whom he rewards for loyal service with lands, positions, and other benefits. After Yoritomo’s death, shogunal power passes to the Hojo regents, who rule from behind figurehead shoguns. In the cultural realm, imperial courtiers turn their energies to the writing of waka poetry, while the literary genre of war epics becomes popular. Perhaps the period’s defining trend is the adoption of Zen Buddhism by the shogunate and the spread of populist sects to commoners. The era sees impressive advances in the areas of commerce, trade, and shipping. The landed estates known as shoen form the basic economic unit of feudal society. As agricultural techniques improve, some peasants begin to improve their lot. But natural disasters and excess exporting of rice lead to periodic famines. Other problems include pillaging gangs of bandits and pirates, a rise in debts and inflation, and violent factional struggles, as well as imperial attempts to wrest back power. The Mongol invasions create a sense of national purpose and unity, but also lead to developments that eventually erode the authority of the Kamakura shogunate.



1180: Minamoto no Yoritomo (1147–1199) es-

tablishes the capital of his warrior association in the remote frontier village of Kamakura in southeastern Honshu, near present-day Tokyo. With its excellent defensive position and harbor, Kamakura grows rapidly into a great government center for the bakufu (tent government) of the warrior class headed by the shogun, or military governor. Yoritomo sets out to organize a regional security system that bypasses Kyoto and to guarantee the property of his followers. After a campaign to rid Kanto area of government representatives and to make some three thousand public and private officials into his vassals, he transforms the region into a personal sphere of influence. There he imposes law and order to protect equally the rights of warriors and of the nobility as landholders. His ultimate goal is peace and stability throughout the land under his control. 1184: Yoritomo establishes a board of inquiry to consider claims and lawsuits. 1185: After civil war victory, Yoritomo is granted the right by the emperor to appoint provincial constables (shogo) and military estate stewards (jito), who become most important local officials of the period. This effectively legitimizes his Kamakura government. 1189: In the Northern Campaign, Yoritomo fights the powerful Fujiwara clan of Mutsu and Dewa provinces after Yoritomo’s brother Yoshitsune had escaped him by fleeing to Mutsu. There, in order to placate Yoritomo, Fujiwara Yasuhira forces Yoshitsune to commit suicide and sends his head to Kamakura. Using his brother’s death as pretext for war, Yoritomo decisively defeats Fujiwara forces and brings the northern region under Kamakura control. 1192: Gokenin (housemen or retainers) first appear as vassals of Yoritomo. Directly answerable to the shogun, they head the hier-

archy of warrior society—comprising mainly bushi, or samurai (one who waits on or attends someone)—whose leaders are holders of military commissions, family estate managers, and descendants of governors, many of them younger sons of nobility. Both gokenin and samurai are mounted warriors who control their own vassals in turn. After Yoritomo conquers northern Honshu and leads a large army into Kyoto in a show of force, Emperor Go-Toba (reigns 1183– 1198) appoints Yoritomo sei-i tai shogun (Great Barbarian-Subduing Generalissimo). 1199: Yoritomo is thrown from his horse and dies; he is succeeded by his sons Yoriie and then Sanetomo. Real authority passes to his widow Hojo Masako (1157–1225), who wields power as a “nun shogun,” and her father Hojo Tokimasa (1138–1215), who founds a line of shogunal regents (shikken) who rule until the end of the era. 1203: Hojo Tokimasa becomes shogunal regent. When he plots against his daughter Masako in 1205, she exiles him to Izu. After her death, her brothers and their issue act as regent. 1219: Shogun Minamoto no Sanetomo is assassinated, ending the line of Minamoto shoguns. Infant Fujiwara prince is brought from Kyoto to become shogun, and Hojo family continues to rule as regent for figurehead child shoguns. 1221: In the Jokyo Disturbance, retired Emperor Go-Toba attempts a coup against the Hojo regent. Defeated within a month, he and two former emperors are exiled, the reigning emperor is deposed and replaced with a Kamakura choice, his followers are executed, and three thousand estates are confiscated from losers and given to Hojo vassals. The Kamakura government stations two tandai (shogunal deputies) in the Kyoto court to oversee all imperial activity. 1223: The first documentary mention of Japanese wako (pirates), who attack the Korean

Political History

coast and carry out later raids in 1225, 1226, 1227, and 1263. Strong protests from the kingdom of Koryo initiate a foreign policy crisis, raising invasion fears. 1226: Initiating government by committee, Regent Hojo Yasutoki founds an eleven- to fifteen-member Hyojosho, or Council of State, and allows broader participation in decision-making at the highest level. He also creates the office of rensho, or cosigner, who must sign all important documents with the regent. This sharing of authority seeks to lessen power and succession struggles. 1232: Goseibai Shikimoku, a fifty-one-article legal code drawn up by the Council of State, delineates Kamakura government jurisdiction in relation to that of civil authorities and formalizes relations with vassals. Rights, duties, and responsibilities are enumerated. Code effectively sweeps away Chinese-style ritsuryo system. 1242: Emperor Shijo (reigns 1232–1242) dies without heir. Shogun supports as candidate Emperor Go-Saga (reigns 1242–1246). GoSaga’s princes start lengthy succession fight that ends in 1337 with establishment of northern and southern Courts. 1249: To aid the Council of State in adjudicating lawsuits, especially those concerned with land rights, shogun establishes hikitsuke, or high appellate court. 1263: The death of the regent Hojo Tokiyori ends the golden period of Kamakura regency. 1266: After conquering most of Korea and while preparing to invade Southern Song China, Khubilai Khan sends a letter seeking allegiance with Japan. In 1268, Mongol envoys arrive in Daifazu with documents for the emperor. The shogunate does not reply to these or subsequent envoys and prepares for war. 1272: In the Nigatsu Disturbance in Kamakura and Kyoto, a purge of those opposed to the main line of the Hojo regency is fol-


lowed by the elimination of those who executed them. This marks serious instability within the shogunate. In the sound of the bell of the Gion Temple echoes the impermanence of all things. The pale hue of the flowers of the teak-tree show the truth that they who prosper must fall. The proud ones do not last long, but vanish like a spring night’s dream. And the mighty ones too will perish in the end, like dust before the wind. Heike monogatari (Tale of the Heike), medieval epic

Mongols invade Japan, landing in northern Kyushu near Hakata with ninety thousand men and nine hundred ships. Japanese are saved when a storm severely damages the invasion fleet and the Mongols leave. In 1275, the Japanese behead an emissary subsequently sent by the Mongols and plan an invasion of Korea, but do not follow through. 1281: Mongols invade again, landing near Hakata, with a much larger force—two fleets totaling some 4,000 ships and some 140,000 warriors (an army of 100,000 Chinese and 40,000 Mongols, Koreans, and Chinese). Despite Mongol tactics of massed units and bomb-tossing catapults, the Japanese fight fiercely for three months and again are saved by a typhoon. These storms, known as kamikaze (divine winds), are seen as proof of heavenly protection of the homeland. The invasion leads to the construction of monumental coastal fortifications that virtually bankrupt the Kamakura shogunate. In addition, the failure to provide promised booty and rewards to warriors eventually erodes faith in the Kamakura judicial system. 1285: In the Shimotsuki Incident, a powerful group of shogunal vassals are eliminated when factionalism leads to a succession struggle. After a battle in Kamakura more 1274:



than fifty combatants commit suicide, as do perhaps five hundred gokenin from Musashi and Kozuke provinces. This begins autocratic rule by the tokuso, the main line of the Hojo clan. 1293: In the Heizen Gate Disturbance, Taira no Yoritsuna, head vassal of the Hojo family, and more than ninety followers are killed by the forces of regent Sadatoki. Yoritsuna is accused of trying to make his son shogun. 1318: Emperor Go-Daigo (reigns 1318–1339) ascends the throne; in 1321 he discontinues insei (cloister government) and becomes active in affairs of state. 1323: Japanese wako (pirates) launch a largescale raid on the Koryo coast; one hundred pirates are beheaded in Cholla province. Wako continue to pillage the Asian coast into the seventeenth century.

1324: In the Shocho Disturbance, a coup at-

tempt led by Emperor Go-Daigo against the Kamakura shogunate fails. 1331: In the Genko War, Emperor Go-Daigo fails for a second time to wrest power from the shogunate. Many plotters are arrested, and he is exiled to Oki Island in 1332. 1333: Go-Daigo escapes from Oki. Meanwhile, both shogunal vassals sent to deal with his still-active supporters have grievances against the shogunal regent and change sides to support Go-Daigo. Ashikaga Takauji seizes the imperial capital, Kyoto. When the Kanto region rises in revolt, Nitta Yoshisada marches on Kamakura to burn it. This leads to the suicides of regent Hojo Takatoki and his family, thus ending the regency and the Kamakura shogunate with it.

MUROMACHI PERIOD: 1333–1573 The Muromachi period (also known as the Ashikaga period) is named for the Kyoto district of the shogun’s palace. It is a time of paradox—civil wars, rebellions, and a general breakdown of the public order are accompanied by extraordinary achievements in the arts. As the shogunate moves from Kamakura to the imperial center of Kyoto and assumes much of its ceremonial monarchical aspect, its own power gradually passes from the hands of increasingly brutal or inept shoguns to those of the regional warlords, or daimyo. Despite often chaotic conditions, trade and commerce flourish, giving rise to an urban mercantile class, replacing agriculture as the main source of revenue and leading to the growth of such provincial cities as Sakai (Osaka), Hyogo (Kobe), and Nagasaki. Succession disputes and quarrels between feudal groups are resolved on the battlefield or defended in massive regional castles. Rioting peasant groups periodically topple toll barricades and storm moneylenders’ offices to demand debt cancellations. By the end of the Warring States era, Kyoto lies partially in ruins while its citizens seek safety in and bring high culture to other cities. This political instability promotes unprecedented geographical and social mobility, both upward and downward, for all classes. Ironically, this milieu open to change and innovation nurtures, often through shogunal patronage and Zen influence, the emergence of noh performances, renga poetry marathons, inkbrush and decorative screen painting, austere rock gardens, the tea ceremony, and the art of flower arrangement. Dramatically signaling the passing of the old order and the onset of the early modern order is the arrival on Japanese shores of namban (southern barbarians)—first the Portuguese who bring firearms and desirable trade items, and then Jesuit missionaries who introduce Christianity along with European learning.

Political History 1333–1336: In the Kemmu Restoration, Em-

peror Go-Daigo tries to restore direct imperial rule based on a model from five hundred years before. He grants the title of shogun to his son Prince Morinaga and appoints courtiers as military governors, but fails to reward sufficiently warriors who helped him to overthrow the Kamakura shogunate. This is a factor that causes Ashikaga Takauji to turn against him. 1336: In the Battle of Minatogawa, Takauji decisively defeats an imperial loyalist army led by Kusunoki Masashige. Takauji’s samurai army forces Go-Daigo to flee with imperial regalia, initiating the period of southern and northern courts (1336–1392), or the Nambokucho era, when two emperors both claiming imperial legitimacy reign (but do not rule) in Yoshino and Kyoto, carrying on sporadic civil war. Takauji issues Kemmu shikimoku, the legal code of shogunate government principles. 1336–1395: As shugo authority expands, shoen are broken up and become chigyo (fiefs); more powerful and autonomous shugo daimyo (regional warlords) emerge in provinces, with domains composed of separate fiefs. Religious institutions also become rulers of feudal domains. 1338: Installed on the Kyoto throne with his support, the child Emperor Komyo names Takauji shogun, thus beginning the 235-year Ashikaga shogunate centered in Kyoto. Descended from the Minamoto clan and related by marriage to the Hojo regents, Takauji is an able administrator who will never control all Japan, but only eight eastern provinces. c. 1350: Kokujin, or provincial landowners, begin to unite to oppose the shogun-appointed shugo. They also form leagues, ikki, with myoshu (independent yeoman-farmers) to oppose excesses of shugo daimyo greed and that of the urban elite and moneylenders. 1350–1352: In the Kanno Disturbance, Ashikaga Tadayoshi revolts against Takauji and


splits the shogunate into warring factions. The two brothers eventually reconcile. 1362: Shogun Ashikaga Yoshiakira creates the position of kanrei, or shogun’s chief minister, who presides over the shogunal council of shugo and conveys the shogun’s orders to them for implementation. This post of kanrei is monopolized by three Ashikaga-related families—the Shiba, Hosokawa, and Hatakeyama. 1363: Yoshiakira persuades the powerful Ouchi and Yamana shugo to submit to the Ashikaga shogunate by granting them autonomy in provincial domains. 1365: Prince Kanenaga of the southern court gains control of all Kyushu. General Imagawa Sadayo wins back the northern area by 1372, but the south holds out for almost twelve years until the 1384 death of the prince. 1366: Koryo envoys ask for the suppression of pirates. 1367: After Yoshiakira dies, leaving the child Yoshimitsu as shogun, Hosokawa Yoriyuki is the shogunal regent as well as kanrei. Yoriyuki fosters the adoption of ceremonial ritual in the shogunate and the rise of Yoshimitsu in imperial court ranks. He tries to limit the power of the shugo daimyo. 1369: Ming China sends envoys to establish relations with the shogunate to end pirate activity; they do the same in 1370 and 1373. When 1378 and 1380 envoys to China are snubbed, Japan ends the attempt at diplomacy in 1383. 1370s: To limit the power of the shugo daimyo, Yoshimitsu insists that they reside in Kyoto in order to participate in government; there he can better monitor their activity. This contributes to the breakdown of the old order in the provinces. 1379: Yoshimitsu crushes a revolt of the Shiba, Toki, and Kyogoku families, thus frustrating the attempt of the Kanto branch of the Ashikaga clan to move power back to Kamakura.



Are we to look at flowers in full bloom, at the moon when it is clear? Nay, to look out on the rain and long for the moon, to draw the blinds and not to be aware of the passing of the spring—these arouse even deeper feelings. Essays in Idleness, by Yoshida Kenko (14th century)

1380s: In a series of pilgrimages to provinces,

Yoshimitsu aims to consolidate the loyalty of the shugo daimyo. 1390: Yoshimitsu defeats the rebellious Toki Yasuyuki, shugo of Mino and Owari. In 1391 he defeats Yamana Ujikiyo, shugo of eleven provinces in central Japan, reducing him to the provinces of Hoki and Tajima. 1391–1392: The Meitoku Rebellion by the Yamana family is crushed by Ouchi, reasserting shogunal authority. 1392: Yoshimitsu reconciles the northern and southern courts, with imperial regalia returned to Kyoto, where Emperor Go-Komatsu (reigns 1382–1412) rules. 1394: Yoshimitsu resigns as shogun to become daijo daijin, or chancellor of state, a position in the old ritsuryo imperial system and highest rank of the Kyoto court. This constitutes a fusion of feudal, bureaucratic, and aristocratic elements in one office. In 1395 he enters holy orders, retaining power while avoiding ceremonial aspects of office. 1397: The shogunate establishes diplomatic ties with Korea. 1399–1400: In what is known as the Oei Rebellion, Ouchi Yoshihiro plots in western Honshu against the shogun’s increasingly autocratic rule. Called to Kyoto, he refuses to go, fearing assassination. Yoshimitsu uses the refusal to declare him an enemy of the shogunate. With the aid of Akamatsu, Kyogoku, and Hosokawa forces, he defeats Ouchi in a large battle at the port of Sakai (Osaka). 1401: Yoshimitsu sends an envoy to Ming China to establish diplomatic relations. He accepts Ming title of tributary “king of Ja-

pan.” In his last seven years of rule, he sends at least seven tribute missions to China. In Kyoto, machi-gumi (communal organizations of townsmen for internal security) emerge. 1407: Yoshimitsu has his own wife named empress dowager to succeed the late empress, and entertains the emperor as an equal. Yoshimitsu’s rule marks the height of Ashikaga status and power. He dies the following year. 1408: Shogun Yoshimochi discontinues relations with Ming China. 1416–1417: The Uesugi Zensho Rebellion takes place in the Kanto region when in a succession dispute Uesugi is defeated by a coalition of three other shugo on the orders of the shogun. This leads to the purge of shugo in Kyoto, resulting in persistent political instability and loss of power for the shogun, who hereafter leaves decision-making to the kanrei and shugo cabinet. 1419: In Oei Invasion, a Korean Yi dynasty fleet attacks pirates on Tsushima. 1423: Sho Hashi completes the unification of the Ryukyu Islands, which become the Ryukyu kingdom. As an entrepoˆt it carries on trade with Japan, China, and Korea; in south with Annam, Siam, Malacca, Sumatra, and Java. The kingdom collapses around 1550. 1428: Ashikaga Yoshinori becomes shogun. Recklessly undermining shogunal power, he plots with vassals to betray the shugo daimyo and meddles in provincial and feudal matters. In major reforms of bureaucracy and military, he weakens the kanrei power of legislative review and expands economic policy. The first broad popular uprising of the era, the Shocho Rebellion, takes place with a series of disturbances in Kyoto, Nara, Ise, Yoshino, Sakai, and elsewhere. During a year of national famine and epidemic, rioters demand debt-cancellation decrees (tokusei). They raid moneylenders’ shops and burn

Political History

loan contracts. As a result, the shogunate, shugo daimyo, and temples all agree to debt cancellations. There will be other debtors’ revolts in the future. 1438: In the Eikyo Disturbance, Yoshinori exploits a potential rival to pacify the shugo, then pits that rival against a powerful adversary. Authority in ten Kanto provinces shifts to Uesugi from the Kanto branch of Ashikaga. 1441: In the Kakitsu Disturbance, the brutal and dictatorial Yoshinori is assassinated at a sarugaku performance by Harima shugo Akamatsu Mitsusuke, who fears confiscation of his provinces. He burns his Kyoto residence and escapes to Harima. Pursued by a punitive expedition, he commits suicide. 1454: Chaos reigns in Kyoto, with widespread thievery. 1458: Shogun Yoshimasa begins ambitious renovation of Yoshimitsu’s Muromachi palace and erects a villa for his mother and a rural retreat for himself. Using the forced labor of workers and draft animals, and extracting surcharge taxes for construction, he exhibits insensitive extravagance and indifference to suffering during the famine of 1460. After his regime, Hosokawa kanrei (chief ministers) install and depose shoguns at their discretion. We must distinguish in the art of the Noh between essence and performance. If the essence is a flower, the performance is its fragrance. Or they may be compared to the moon and the light which it sheds. When the essence has been thoroughly understood, the performance develops of itself. Shikado-sho (The Book of the Way of the Highest Flower), by Zeami (15th century)

1467–1477: Onin War of the Sengoku (or

Warring States) period (1467–1568) begins with a shogunal succession dispute, as rebellious vassals and armies of over 100,000


men of western Yamana and eastern Hosokawa armies battle sporadically over eleven years. Fighting rages in the Kyoto streets, leaving half of the capital in ruins, and great monuments are burned; aristocrats, merchants, and craftsmen flee to provincial cities. The war ends inconclusively, leads to decentralization of authority, breaks up shugo territories into smaller units, and gives rise to the ascendancy of new locally powerful military families. As daimyo retreat to fortress castles, peasants and villagers often are allowed a degree of self-management. Anarchy continues for a century as warlords, adventurers, religious sects, and even villages struggle for supremacy and survival in a mutual rivalry called gekokujo (literally, “those beneath overthrow those above”). 1480s: Shugo daimyo withdraw from shogunal structure, emerge as sengoku daimyo, with greater power, including collection of taxes; regulation of markets, transportation facilities, weights and measures; enforcement of civil and penal laws; and regulation and protection of religious institutions. From 1490 to 1573 they, rather than the shogun or emperor, are in control in the country. In the 1560s some two hundred daimyo rule two-thirds of Japan. Some cities and villages become semiautonomous with rule by a council of elders, as with Sakai’s ten-man egosho. 1485: The Yamashiro kuni ikki, an organization of peasants and lower-rank warriors, drives out shugo armies, refuses to pay provincial taxes, and rules the southern part of the province until 1493. 1488: Marking the rise of popular Ikko ikki (single-minded league or uprising) power, Jodo shin sect members defeat the Kaga provincial army and establish rule there. For nearly a century they rule Kaga through priests of Honganji temple in cooperation with lesser samurai and village leaders. Uprisings spread to neighboring provinces, un-



til a 1580 defeat by Oda Nobunaga ends their hegemony. Who’s that Holding over four hundred provinces In the palm of his hand And entertaining at a tea-party? It’s His Highness So mighty, so impressive! Song to Hideyoshi at his shrine in Kyoto (15th–16th centuries)

1532–1536: In the Temmon Hokke Rebel-

lion, armed members of the Nichiren Buddhist sect form the Lotus Confederation, take over the city, and refuse to pay rents and taxes in Kyoto. Finally, they are violently opposed by warrior-monks of Enryakuji temple, who destroy twenty-one main Nichiren temples and burn Kyoto’s commercial center. The Nichiren flee to Sakai and build a new headquarters there. 1543: The first Europeans arrive with an accidental landfall on the island of Tanegashima of a Chinese junk carrying several Portuguese. 1553: The first of five battles of Kawanakajima takes place between warlords Uesugi Kenshin and Takeda Shingen. Minor engage-

ments are glorified in Edo-period literature—brutal warlords are portrayed as chivalrous heroes of epic encounters. June 12, 1560: Beginning a rise to power in Kanto region, Oda Nobunaga (1534–1582) defeats Imagawa Yoshimoto at the Battle of Okehazama. With only 2,000–3,000 soldiers he ambushes the warlord’s 25,000-man army. Yoshimoto dies and his vassal Matsudaira Motoyasu (later Tokugawa Ieyasu) becomes a free agent. 1562: Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543– 1616) become allies. 1568: Nobunaga captures Kyoto and installs Ashikaga Yoshiaki as shogun. In 1569, Sakai submits to Nobunaga after he threatens the city with destruction when Miyoshi leaders in Sakai attack the shogun. This begins the Shokuho regime (1568– 1600), or the period between shogunates, an era of national unification and consolidation under Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. January 6, 1573: Takeda Shingen defeats the army of Tokugawa Ieyasu and Oda Nobunaga at Mikatagahara, encouraging Yoshiaki to sever ties to Nobunaga. May 1573: Nobunaga burns much of Kyoto to bring the shogun back under his control. In August he expels the shogun from Kyoto, thus ending the Muromachi period and Ashikaga shogunate.

M O M O YA M A P E R I O D : 1 5 7 3 – 1 6 1 5 Also known as the Azuchi-Momoyama period, the era is named after the magnificent castles built by Nobunaga at Azuchi and by Hideyoshi at Momoyama. Although short, the period sees enormous changes. The three warlords Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu complete, together and individually, the unification of Japan after defeating powerful regional daimyo and militaristic Buddhist communities. This relatively speedy and bloody conquest is aided in part by the use of firearms introduced by Europeans. The warlords seek to consolidate their political gains by the implementation of countrywide land surveys, a reorganized tax system, and by an attempt to conquer Korea. Potential challengers to their authority are eliminated by “sword hunts” that strip all except samurai of their weapons. The warlords begin a campaign of erecting impressive fortress castles opulently decorated inside with gold screens by top artists. Official patronage, especially under Hideyoshi, also

Political History


extends to occasions of ceremonial pageantry and festivals, including dance and noh performances, and to the use of the tea cult as a tool of statecraft. Kabuki also makes its first appearance, initially as a women’s performance art. Persecution increasingly limits the activity of Christian missionaries and their converts, who come to be viewed as socially subversive. Cosmopolitanism characterizes the era as trade with Europeans, centered in Nagasaki, encompasses the Spanish, Dutch, and English, as well as the Portuguese whose exotic foods and clothing enter the vocabulary of fashionable Japanese. But this is only temporary, as internal pressures begin to threaten relations with foreigners, both religious and secular. October 1574: Nobunaga defeats Ikko ikki at

July 27, 1582: Hideyoshi orders the Taiko ken-

Ise-Nagashima. In a rise to power, he eliminates, one by one, contentious religious communities. June 1575: In the Battle of Nagashino, Nobunaga’s three thousand men using firearms are victorious over Takeda Katsuyori’s cavalry, a milestone of Japan’s entry into modern warfare. 1576: Nobunaga’s Echizen governor conducts a “sword hunt,” ordering peasants to surrender weapons, and carries out a religious inquisition. September 10, 1580: Nobunaga burns the Osaka headquarters of Ishiyama Honganji after its surrender, concluding a ten-year campaign against the True Pure Land sect. 1580: Nobunaga destroys forts in Kansai region, orders land surveys in Yamato and Harima provinces. April 1582: Nobunaga defeats the Takeda clan, gains power over Kanto region. June 21, 1582: In the Honnoji Incident, wounded Nobunaga commits suicide following a surprise attack by his vassal general Akechi Mitsuhide. By now, half of Japan, including the central region and Kyoto, is under Nobunaga’s control. July 2, 1582: In the Battle of Yamazaki, Hideyoshi (1537–1598) avenges Nobunaga’s death by defeating Mitsuhide and begins his own rise to national power. As the only early Japanese leader of commoner descent, he has risen rapidly in Nobunaga’s service from stable boy to daimyo through extraordinary talents.

chi, a survey of the lands and productive capacity of Yamashiro province, and a survey in 1584 of Omi province, using the new standard square measure. He moves loyal daimyo to strategic domains and removes potential enemies to distant sites. As an instrument of political unification and of simplification of the land holding and taxation system, provincial land surveys through 1598 enumerate the size and yield of each rice field; guarantee tenancy of plot to actual cultivator; and set a tax rate as high as 50 percent, eliminating other taxes and dues. 1583: In the Battle of Shizugatake, Hideyoshi defeats Shibata Katsuie in a succession struggle, consolidating his supreme power over thirty of sixty provinces. May 1584: After Tokugawa Ieyasu defeats Hideyoshi’s forces at Nagakute, the campaign continues with skirmishes at Komaki. December 16, 1584: Hostilities and succession struggle end when Hideyoshi makes peace with Oda Nobukatsu (Oda Nobunaga’s son), an ally of Tokugawa Ieyasu. April–May 1585: Hideyoshi defeats Negoro warrior-monks and gains Kii province; in July–August his troops conquer Chosokabe daimyo in Shikoku. August 6, 1585: Hideyoshi is appointed kanpaku, or imperial regent. January 27, 1587: Hideyoshi is appointed Daijo daijin, grand chancellor of state, the highest post in the ritsuryo system. April–June 1587: Hideyoshi conquers Kyu-



shu after personally leading expedition against Shimazu daimyo of Satsuma. 1588: Exiled Ashikaga Yoshiaki officially gives up the shogunate, marking the legal end of the Muromachi government. Hideyoshi orders a “sword hunt” in many provinces: confiscation of weapons from all except samurai is aimed at depriving peasants, farmers, and warrior-monks of the means for armed rebellion. August 12, 1590: With the end of the Odawara campaign, Hideyoshi defeats GoHojo’s forces. This, along with a 1591 victory in northern Honshu, completes the unification of Japan. He moves ally and potential rival Ieyasu a safe distance to Kanto, with the marshy fishing village of Edo to be his castle town. Using landfill and waterworks construction methods, Ieyasu establishes a High City for his own fortress, samurai, vassals, and center of government, with a Low City for merchants and craftsmen who flock to the new metropolis. February 11, 1591: Hideyoshi transfers the office of kanpaku (imperial regent) to his nephew and adopted son Toyotomi Hidetsugu, and himself assumes the title of Taiko (retired imperial regent). Juraku Palace becomes Hidetsugu’s formal residence. 1592–1593: Hideyoshi invades Korea with some 250,000 men in a plan aimed at the ultimate conquest of China. Ieyasu, busy with Edo, does not participate. The Japanese are victorious until Korea seeks help from China; the Korean navy rallies, guerrillas become active, and a severe winter sets in. The war ends in an armistice that lasts until 1596, when negotiations break down. 1595: Hidetsugu commits suicide after Hideyoshi banishes him in order to clear inheritance for his own newborn son. Hidetsugu’s family and retainers are massacred, and Juraku castle is torn down. 1597: The second Korean invasion begins with Japan again initially successful. After Hideyoshi’s death in the following year, Japan’s forces are pulled out of Korea.

September 18, 1598: Hideyoshi dies after en-

trusting his five-year-old son Hideyori to the five-man council of regency to assure his succession. Tokugawa Ieyasu becomes his guardian. Hideyoshi’s accomplishments are considerable—securing success as a brilliant military tactician and unifier of the nation; restoring the dignity of the imperial house; rebuilding the capital and other cities; repairing monasteries and shrines ravaged by war; and leading the nation into a lively cultural era. October 21, 1600: In the bloody Battle of Sekigahara, Tokugawa Ieyasu defeats Ishida Mitsunari, his most dangerous enemy; the victory establishes Ieyasu’s power over all Japan. He reneges on his promise to protect Hideyori’s succession and consolidates power by giving eighty-seven estates confiscated from losers to his own followers. He builds a series of fortresses around Edo (Tokyo), his new capital, and strengthens his own castle there. March 24, 1603: Ieyasu has himself named shogun. 1605: Taking the title of ogosho (retired shogun), Ieyasu passes the shogun post on to his son Hidetada in order to assure the continuity of the Tokugawa dynasty; he remains the power behind the figurehead. 1607: The first embassy from Korean Yi dynasty since invasions arrives in Edo to seek relations with the Tokugawa shogunate. 1609: The shogunate approves a military expedition by Shimazu family, rulers of Satsuma, against the Ryukyu Islands. In 1611 the Ryukyus become a vassal state of Satsuma. 1610: The Tokugawa allow Tanaka Shosuke to travel to New Spain (Mexico) with Rodrigo Vivero y Velasco. In 1611 Tokugawa leaders formally receive an envoy of New Spain’s viceroy. 1613: Hasekura Tsunenaga leads an unsuccessful embassy to Spain’s Philip iii to ask for trade with New Spain. November 1614–June 1615: In order to se-

Political History

cure the Tokugawa shogunate, Ieyasu sets out to remove Hideyori and some ninety thousand ronin (masterless samurai) followers. The first siege (or winter campaign) of


Hideyori’s Osaka castle leads to the summer campaign (June 4, 1615) wherein the castle is overrun and Hideyori commits suicide, thus ending the Hideyoshi succession.

EDO PERIOD: 1615–1868 Named after the new shogunal capital city, the period is one of a 250-year-long, prosperous pax Tokugawa. Excluding Westerners from Japanese shores, the Tokugawa shoguns seek to impose social order and stability, based on Confucian principles, by means of a rigid stratification of classes and a draconian moralism that permeates nearly all areas of everyday activity. In the socalled bakuhan administration system, the shogun controls Edo and, nominally, some 250 daimyo who in turn are responsible for the governance of their own domains (han). As the urban centers grow, samurai become bureaucrats; merchants and craftsmen, though low on the official social scale, flourish and form the basis of a bourgeoisie that avoids the heavy taxation that still burdens farmers. Both samurai and commoners patronize the lively Genroku artistic culture, which sees the arrival of bunraku puppet theater and of haiku poetry, and the further evolution of kabuki performance. Known as ukiyo, or “the Floating World,” the licensed red-light districts and their denizens become a subject of fascination for writers and designers, who develop the colored woodblock print into a high art form. Isolation from Westerners, interrupted occasionally by accidental or intentional intrusion of European and American vessels, is loosened as time goes on, to admit books on the sciences which become the focus of intense study by a growing phalanx of scholars, who also examine areas of Japanese culture. Meanwhile Christians are cruelly persecuted, and new Shinto utopian sects emerge. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the shogunate is a fractured structure weakened by fiscal mismanagement. The arrival of Commodore Perry’s American ships in Edo Bay to demand and get a trading agreement reopens Japan to the West. This Japanese appeasement of the foreigners provokes pro-imperial radicals into terrorism and leads to the overthrow of the Tokugawa shogunate. 1615: The shogunate issues Buke shohatto

(ordinances relating to warrior houses): samurai are to be adept with both sword and brush, the latter referring to literacy. After nearly two hundred years of civil wars, samurai now must adapt to a peacetime existence. Their code emphasizes courage, loyalty, obedience, dignity, and willingness to sacrifice their own life in an instant. They are recognized by their assertive demeanor, two swords (a long one for fighting, a short one for committing suicide), and hair worn in a topknot with the front shaved. Forbidden to own land, they join the daimyo in cities and begin to work in administration.

Also issued are Kincho narabi ni kuge shohatto (laws governing imperial court and nobility). 1623: Becoming shogun, Ieyasu’s grandson Iemitsu shapes the regime into final form by issuing directives to control all strata of society. Daimyo are to spend alternate time periods in Edo and in their own domains (until 1862), leaving their families hostage in Edo. The expense of maintaining two or more residences and of lengthy processions to and from Edo leaves less money for military adventurism. The shogun is to oversee their marriages and other areas of their lives; they are to communicate with the emperor only



through the shogun; their households are to be under surveillance of metsuke (inspectors), official Tokugawa censors. Fearing dispossession of their domains, daimyo obey. Villagers are to form goningumi (five-man groups) wherein they are mutually responsible for each other’s tax payments, behavior, and religious orthodoxy. 1636: Construction of buildings on Nagasaki’s artificial island of Dejima is finished; Portuguese merchants must move there from the city. In 1639 the Portuguese are banned from Japan, as are all Europeans except the Dutch, who move to Dejima. 1637–1638: In the Shimabara Rebellion, persecuted and impoverished Christians, unemployed samurai, and peasants rise up. Soon some 40,000 under Amakusa Shiro win a series of victories against daimyo armies from a base at Hara Castle. A shogunal force of 120,000 besieges the castle, with the Dutch helping to bombard it. After eighty days, rebels set fire to castle and all perish within. The uprising leads to 220 years of Japanese seclusion from the outside world and its pernicious influences. Despite brutal persecution, kakure kirishitan (crypto-Christians) continue to worship in secret. In 1850 thousands are discovered and arrested. Anti-Christian laws remain in effect until 1872. August 4, 1639: The shogunate’s ultimate sakoku (exclusion policy) directive ends almost all European trade with Japan, evicts all Westerners except the Dutch. 1640: To enforce sakoku laws, the shogunate executes sixty-one members of a Portuguese delegation from Macau sent to protest the ban on traders. 1648: A legal code is issued to control the lives of Edo commoners. In Osaka, codes regulate urban life and commerce. In 1649 the shogunate promulgates the Keian furegaki: peasants are to be frugal and diligent, farmers are forbidden to drink tea or sake.

1663: In a revision to the Buke shohatto, war-

riors are banned from suicide on the death of their lord. Summer grass All that remains Of warriors’ dreams. Haiku by Basho (17th century)

1680: Tsunayoshi becomes shogun, dismisses

the grand councilor, and confiscates the domains of forty-six daimyo, beginning in 1681. In 1685 he begins to issue Edicts on Compassion for Living Things, including rules on overloading pack horses. In 1695 he orders the erection of palatial dog pounds in Edo to house some forty thousand dogs abandoned by their owners and often used for archery practice. Killing dogs is made a capital offense, convincing some that he is unbalanced. 1701–1703: In the Forty-Seven Ronin Incident, samurai pursue a vendetta to avenge their lord’s death. Despite this crime, they are admired for loyalty and as exemplary selfsacrificing samurai upholding the warrior code; they are allowed to commit suicide honorably rather than be executed. Their grave, next to their master, becomes a popular pilgrimage and tourist site. This most famous event of the samurai era will be the basis for some 150 novels, plays, films, and television epics. 1716: Yoshimune becomes the eighth Tokugawa shogun and begins the Kyoho Reforms (1716–1745) upholding frugality and military spirit; mandating financial retrenchment, land reclamation, crop diversification, legal code revisions. Reforms are attempt to halt what is believed to be nation’s downward spiral. He is the last great shogun; his successors tend to be figureheads manipulated by their ministers. 1738: In the largest demonstration to date, some 84,000 farmers protest in Iwakitaira.

Political History

Later protests surpass this, with 160,000 in 1754 and 200,000 in 1764. An army supplied by thirteen daimyo suppresses an uprising at the Ikuno silver mine. 1787–1793: Shogunal chief councilor Matsudaira Sadanobu begins the reactionary Kansei Reforms: attempts to restrict foreign trade, cancel samurai debt, restore agriculture as economic mainstay of state, and ban unorthodox teachings. He also issues severe sumptuary laws. Based on traditional Confucian theory, this policy proves economically damaging, leading to famines, uprisings, and urban violence. He resigns in 1793. 1791–1792: U.S. and Russian ships visit Japan, unsuccessfully seeking trade. During the next fifty years, repeated Western attempts are made to open relations. The shogunate’s response to accidental and intentional arrivals varies. In 1806 it allows help to accidental landings, but castaways must leave; in 1825 all ships must be driven off; in 1842 the shogunate orders a return to the 1806 policy of allowing the provision of food, water, and firewood to ships. 1792–1793: An envoy from Catherine the Great, Russian navy lieutenant Adam Laksman, arrives in Hokkaido to seek the return of castaways and, unsuccessfully, to open trade relations. In 1804 an embassy by Nikolai Rezanov to Nagasaki also fails. 1799: The shogunate establishes direct control over Ezo (southern Hokkaido). In 1806 it gains power over the western region as Russian ships threaten sites in the north. 1801: After Russians introduce Russian culture and Christianity to Ainu on the Kurile Islands, the shogunate tries to win back the Ainu and drive out the Russians. 1808: In the Phaeton Incident, a British warship flying the Dutch flag enters Nagasaki harbor and seizes two Dutch prisoners, who are released in exchange for food and water provisions.


Our country, as a special mark of favor from the heavenly gods, was begotten by them, and there is thus so immense a difference between Japan and all the other countries of the world as to defy comparison. Ours is a splendid and blessed country, the Land of the Gods beyond any doubt, and we, down to the most humble man and woman, are the descendants of the gods. Kodo Taii (Summary of the Ancient Way) by Hirata Atsutane (1811)

1837: In the Morrison Incident, a U.S. mer-

chant ship, ostensibly trying to return castaways but actually seeking trade, is fired on when it attempts to land near Edo and later again in Kyushu’s Kagoshima Bay. In Osaka, Oshio Heihachiro heads a rebellion to seek famine relief. Ikuta Yorozu leads a similar protest. Various domains initiate reform programs. 1839: In the context of scholarly debate on the national seclusion policy, the shogunate begins attacks on Japanese specialists of Rangaku (Dutch studies) and Yogaku (Western studies). Arrested and imprisoned are Watanabe Kazan (1793–1841) and Takano Choei (1804–1850). 1841–1843: The Tempo Reforms are the most severe yet in an attempt to improve shogunal authority and the economic situation: they abolish merchant monopolies and guilds in an unsuccessful attempt to lower prices, evict daimyo from the region of Edo and Osaka castles, dismiss great numbers of officials, censor pornography, forcibly return peasants found in cities back to the land, and “rectify the classes” by means of extensive sumptuary laws. The reforms result in ever higher prices and are soon rescinded. 1844: In Nagasaki, a Dutch warship arrives with a letter from the king seeking trade; the shogunate refuses. As more and more foreign whaling vessels and warships enter Japanese waters, Japan begins to build up coastal defenses. Military garrisons are estab-



lished at Hakodate in Hokkaido and in the Kurile Islands. July 8, 1853: Four U.S. warships led by Commodore Matthew Perry arrive in Edo Bay to seek free trade without bloodshed. After sending a message ashore, they sail away, to return for an answer in a year. What is recognized as an ultimatum poses a dilemma for the vacillating shogunal government, and debate over a response weakens it further. 1854: Perry returns with a fleet of nine vessels, bearing gifts for the shogun, including a quarter-size railway that travels at twenty miles per hour on 350 feet of track, a telegraph with three miles of wire, two lifeboats, and lesser items. U.S. soldiers display closeorder drill, firefighting, mock attack on ship, a broadside of heaviest guns, and a minstrel show, to the accompaniment of much whiskey. The shogunate signs the Kanagawa Treaty of peace and amity with the United States, calling for two coaling stations for foreign steamships at Hakodate and Shimoda. The shogunate will also sign treaties with Great Britain (1854), Russia (1855), and the Netherlands (1856). 1856: First U.S. consul Townsend Harris arrives to conduct negotiations for 1858 Open Port Treaty: it opens Hakodate, Yokohama, Kobe, Niigata, Shimoda, and Nagasaki to American traders, with Osaka and Edo to follow. Treaty also includes extraterritoriality for foreigners, a “most favored nation” clause favoring the United States, and low tariff rates, potentially damaging Japanese economy further. In 1860 a shogunal delegation sails on an American ship to the United States to ratify the treaty. This pact sets the precedent for a series of humiliating “unequal treaties” with Westerners and leads to bitter resentment against foreigners and the shogunate, contributing to eventual open rebellion. In Chosho domain, Yoshida Shoin

begins to teach imperial loyalist ideology to young samurai. 1858: Ansei commercial treaties between Japan and the United States, the Netherlands, Russia, Great Britain, and France are completed, leading to a purge of those opposed to reopening Japan to West. 1860: In the Sakuradamon Incident, shogunal advisor Ii Naosuke, who promoted the Ansei treaties, is assassinated. This begins a period of terrorist activity against foreign residents and shogunal leaders by self-styled shishi (men of high purpose) radicals. Their battle cry is Sonno joi (“Revere the Emperor, drive out the barbarian!”). Springing from southwest Japan, far from political centers, the rebellion’s ultimate goals are overthrow of the shogunate in favor of emperor-headed government and national reformation. British-supplied arms will aid their struggle. 1862: In the Richardson Affair, a British merchant is murdered by Satsuma samurai; in 1863 British bombard Kagoshima in retaliation. September 30, 1863: In a coup attempt, proimperial radical samurai are driven from Kyoto. In the 1864 Ikedaya Incident, they try to seize the palace and clash with shogunal police. In the Hamaguri Gomon Incident, they try to force their way into Kyoto, and an imperial court orders the shogunate to lead a punitive expedition against them into Chosho. 1864: In the Shimonoseki Bombardment, ships of Western nations retaliate against Chosho attacks on vessels passing through the strait. 1866: The Satsuma-Chosho alliance is formed against shogunate; the shogunal expeditionary army is defeated. In this year both the emperor and the shogun die. 1867: The last Tokugawa shogun, Yoshinobu, officially surrenders power and resigns from office. Rebel forces take Kyoto and Edo.

Political History


MEIJI PERIOD: 1868–1912 Meiji (Enlightened Rule) is not just the title of the era but also the name of Emperor Mutsuhito, whose reign the period encompasses. Under the slogan Fukoku kyohei (“Enrich the country, strengthen the military”), the leaders of the Meiji Restoration carry out a sweeping program of modernization unprecedented in Japanese history. Steps are taken to eradicate feudalism immediately, resulting in a transformation of geographical boundaries, social classes, and economic structure. Governmental reform redefines the emperor’s role, produces the nation’s first constitution, and sees the rise of political parties for the new parliamentary system. Giant leaps are made in the areas of education, science, technology, and commerce. The era’s problems— including often violent popular unrest, financial crises, and growing militarism—cannot overshadow the remarkable successes. Industrialization on the Western model flourishes and is stimulated further by wars that gain for Japan the beginnings of a colonial empire and stature as a world power. January 3, 1868: After military victories, the

court declares imperial restoration. In October sixteen-year-old Mutsuhito selects the name Meiji (reigns 1868–1912), under which he will preside as the new emperor. Initially the government exploits his symbolic role, but later he comes to participate in decisionmaking. Edo is renamed first Tokei, then Tokyo. In 1869 the emperor officially moves the capital there from Kyoto. January 27, 1868: In the Battle of Toba-Fushimi, forces claiming to represent the emperor defeat those allied to the shogunate. This begins the Boshin Civil War. April 6, 1868: In a move to stabilize rule, the Charter Oath is issued in the emperor’s name. It seeks to unify the allegiance of all classes and to open the way to social and political change. At the same time, the emperor issues Gobo no Keiji (Five Public Notices): upholding traditional Confucian values and banning criminal behavior, Christianity and other “heterodox” sects, injury to foreigners, and travel outside Japan. Except for the ban on injury to foreigners, the Notices are mostly ignored. June 11, 1868: Seitaisho, the first constitution of the Meiji government, becomes law, granting nearly all authority to the Dajokan (Grand Council of State); the bicameral deliberative assembly will have little power. June 27, 1869: In the Battle of Goryokaku in

Ezo, daimyo forces led by Enomoto Takeaki surrender, ending the Boshin Civil War. With pacification of the region, the entire country comes under imperial rule. Ezo is renamed Hokkaido and the Hokkaido Colonization Office opens in 1869. July 25–August 2, 1869: As ordered by the new government, the daimyo officially return Hanseki, or domainal registers, of land and people of 262 domains. Initially the daimyo are named governors of their former domains, but in July 1871 their domains are abolished. Former daimyo are paid off and become part of the nobility. December 23, 1871: The Iwakura Mission sets sail from Yokohama, primarily to renegotiate “unequal treaties” of the shogunate with the West. Its diplomatic efforts rebuffed, the fifty-member group (including ambassadors, students, and baggage handlers) completes an eighteen-month tour of the United States and Europe; they bring back first-hand experience of Western industrialization to inspire Japanese modernization efforts. January 1872: Realignment of domain boundaries results in the creation of seventytwo provincial prefectures and three urban prefectures. April 1872: Government establishes the Army Ministry and Navy Ministry. In May 1893 the Navy General Staff is established as a separate organ of command.



January 1873: Government enacts the Con-

scription Ordinance of 1873, effective in April, mandating three years’ compulsory military service for all males twenty years of age; this leads to antidraft rioting. October 1873: The Dajokan separates into factions over Japanese policy toward Korea, as government rejects a military expedition against Korea after an alleged Korean insult. Some members of the losing faction found the Freedom and People’s Rights Movement. November 1873: The government organizes the Home Ministry to control social unrest, primarily among dispossessed samurai, some of whom turn to armed rebellion after the government dismantles the samurai class in 1873–1876. This ministry directs local administration and elections, police, and public works. January 17, 1874: In a sharp critique of government policies, the Public Party of Patriots, led by Itagaki Taisuke (1837–1919) and associates, issues the Tosa Memorial, calling for the establishment of a national representative assembly. The white snow on Fuji Melts in the morning sun, Melts and runs down To Mishima, Where Mishima’s prostitutes Mix it in their make-up. Popular ballad (19th century)

January–February 1874: The Saga Rebellion

is waged by dispossessed samurai and by a faction calling for an invasion of Korea and for a return to the feudal order. After they attack banks and government offices, they are suppressed by government forces. May 1874: In a punitive expedition against Taiwan, following the December 1871 murder there of fifty-four shipwrecked Ryukyu Islanders, Japan’s government sends a three thousand-man force that meets with strong

Taiwanese resistance. China pays an indemnity and recognizes Japanese claims to the Ryukyus. January–February 1875: In order to resolve political differences, the Osaka Conference convenes to consider establishing a representative assembly. May 7, 1875: In the Treaty of St. Petersburg, Russia gains Sakhalin, while the Kurile Islands go to Japan. Receiving most favored nation status, Japan may fish in the Sea of Okhotsk and freely use Russian ports in the area. June 28, 1875: Government enacts the Libel Law of 1875, together with the Press Ordinance of 1875, to control the press and limit freedom of expression in response to political activity by the Freedom and People’s Rights Movement. February 27, 1876: Japan gains “unequal privileges” in the Treaty of Kangwha with Korea. Despite Korea’s tributary relation with China, the treaty recognizes Korea as an independent state, calls for diplomatic exchanges, and opens three ports to Japanese trade. The treaty is a contributing factor to the Sino-Japanese War of 1894–1895 and to the eventual Japanese annexation of Korea. October 24, 1876: The Shinporen Rebellion by discontented samurai breaks out. It is followed by the Hagi Rebellion of October 26 and the Akizuki Rebellion of October 27. January 29–September 24, 1877: The last and largest of former samurai disturbances is the Satsuma Rebellion by some forty thousand dissenters led by Saigo Takamori (1827– 1877), originally a leader of the Meiji Restoration movement. May 14, 1878: Six samurai conspirators from Satsuma Rebellion assassinate Home Minister Okubo Toshimichi (1830–1878), the strongest political leader of the time. August 23, 1878: Angered by wage reductions and paltry rewards from the Satsuma Rebellion, some 260 government soldiers rise up in the Takehashi Insurrection. On October 15 fifty-three are sentenced to death and 118

Political History

banished from Tokyo. This leads the government to strengthen military discipline. 1879: The Ryukyu Kingdom is abolished, and the islands are incorporated into Japan’s Okinawa Prefecture. April 1880: A Public Assembly Ordinance is issued to control political activity: it requires registration and prior approval from police for all organizations and meetings; it also bans contact between organizations and outdoor gatherings. Summer 1881: The Hokkaido Colonization Office scandal erupts as the agency sells off assets at very favorable rates to cronies. Public outrage forces cancellation of the sale and, in October, the resignation of finance minister Okuma Shigenobu (1838–1922). The government is forced to promise a new constitution and national assembly by 1890. October 1881: Matsukata Masayoshi (1835– 1924) becomes finance minister and starts to implement the Matsukata Fiscal Policy in order to stabilize the economy in a time of depression, bankruptcies, and inflation. By retrenchment, deflation, and currency and banking reform measures through 1885, he reestablishes confidence in the currency and banking systems. As result, from 1883 to 1890 some 368,000 peasants (or 10 percent) lose land to taxes; more lose land through mortgage foreclosures. October 29, 1881: Leaders of the Freedom and People’s Rights Movement found the nation’s first national political party, Jiyoto (Liberal Party). Over the next decades numerous parties and political organizations are founded; some soon disband, while many transform or merge to form new parties. August 30, 1882: With the Treaty of Chemulp’o, Japan receives reparations for losses of Japanese lives and property in Korea during the Imo Mutiny, when Korean troops rebel against Japanese-style modernization of the Korean army. November 28, 1882: The Fukushima Incident is first of popular uprisings through


1884. When peasants demonstrate against high taxes and conscript labor for road construction, Jiyoto leaders are imprisoned. When a thousand peasants outside the police station demand their release, violence ensues, leading to charges of treason against fifty-eight. September 24, 1884: In the Kabasan Incident, police and government forces suppress attempt by radical Jiyoto members to establish a more democratic government and assassinate Meiji political leaders. This and the October 31 Chichibu Incident are two of many similar events, usually with ties to the Freedom and People’s Rights Movement, in the early 1880s. December 4, 1884: In the Korean Kapsin political coup, young reformers with Japanese ties seize the royal palace and are suppressed by the Chinese garrison. The January 1885 Treaty of Seoul grants Japan an apology and reparations for the burned embassy and forty dead Japanese. April 1885: Japan and China complete the Tientsin Convention, delineating their interests in Korea: both are to withdraw troops, neither are to send troops back without prior written notice, and Korea is to hire advisors from a third nation to train its army. December 22, 1885: The cabinet system is adopted as the new ruling body of government, replacing the Dajokan. It is responsible only to the emperor, not the Diet, through World War II. Ito Hirobumi (1841– 1907) becomes prime minister. 1885: In the Osaka Incident, Japanese Jiyoto activists plot to raise an army to invade Korea and install rebel leader Kim Okkyun in power. Police uncover the plan and arrest 130 in Osaka and Nagasaki. October 24, 1886: In the Normanton Incident, British crew escape a sinking freighter, leaving twenty-three Japanese passengers to drown. The captain gets off lightly in a Yokohama British consular trial, spurring Japanese urgency to revise “unequal treaties” to abolish extraterritoriality.



December 25, 1887: The Peace Preservation

Law is enacted to control rising political activism: public demonstrations and outdoor gatherings are to require police permission. The Public Order and Police Law of 1900 follows to restrain labor movements and the rights of workers. April 30, 1888: The Privy Council, the senior consultative body to the emperor and government, is organized to ratify the Meiji constitution. November 29, 1889: The Meiji constitution, or Constitution of the Empire of Japan, becomes effective. Influenced by the Prussian model, it defines the sovereignty of the emperor, who is served by the cabinet. The judiciary is made independent; the Diet is to initiate legislation and approve laws and the budget. Individual rights of the people are theoretically guaranteed. November 25, 1890: The first session of the Imperial Diet, which includes the House of Peers and the House of Representatives, convenes after the first general election. May 11, 1891: In the Otsu Incident, a Japanese policeman escorting the Russian crown prince on a tour of Japan wounds the prince in an assassination attempt. He is sentenced to life imprisonment. Speedy resolution of the diplomatic crisis is seen to demonstrate the independence of the Japanese judiciary. July 16, 1894: In the first revision of unequal treaties, the Anglo-Japanese Commercial Treaty of 1894 does away with extraterritoriality and allows Japan partial tariff autonomy. Other Western powers sign similar pacts. August 1, 1894: The Sino-Japanese War of 1894–1895 breaks out when Japan and China intervene in the Korean Tonghak Rebellion. Japan quickly defeats larger Chinese forces. April 17, 1895: War ends with the Treaty of Shimonoseki. The Tripartite Intervention by Russia, France, and Germany forces Japan to give back some territory ceded by China, but Japan comes away with Taiwan, which remains a Japanese colony for the next fifty-

one years. As a result of the war Japan emerges as Asia’s first imperialist world power. Internally, the military gains a greater voice, foreign policy turns toward territorial expansion, and industrialization intensifies. August 4, 1900: An Allied expeditionary force against the Boxer Rebellion in China includes some ten thousand Japanese, five thousand Russian, three thousand British, two thousand American, and eight hundred French troops. 1901: To promote Japanese expansion in Asia and to drive Russia from Manchuria (which Japan occupies in 1900), the ultranationalist Amur River Society is founded: it publishes a journal and trains and sends intelligence agents to Siberia and Manchuria. January 30, 1902: The Anglo-Japanese Alliance, signed in London, provides for joint action in case of Russian aggression with a fourth power; it also affirms British special interests in China and Japanese interests in Korea. February 8, 1904: The Russo-Japanese War begins as the Japanese navy attacks the Russian fleet at Port Arthur before declaring war on February 10, initiating hostilities over control of Korea and Manchuria. Japan lands troops in Korea through March and reaches Manchuria in May. Despite winning a series of battles, Japan is unable to rout Russian forces. February 21–March 10, 1905: Japanese defeat Russians in the Battle of Mukden, but find resources depleted. May 27–28, 1905: Japan defeats the Russian Baltic Fleet in the Battle of Tsushima, then secretly asks U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt to mediate peace. Japanese casualties reach ninety thousand. September 5, 1905: The Treaty of Portsmouth (New Hampshire) ending the Russo-Japanese War grants Japan exclusive rights in Korea and territorial rights to Sakhalin south of the 50th parallel, as well as to the southern Liaodong Peninsula. Manchuria returns to

Political History

China, and Russia is to be paid for its lost land. Treaty terms are protested in the Tokyo Hibiya Incendiary Incident: a mass rally and police clashes end with martial law, 350 buildings burned, seventeen dead, and some one thousand injured. November 18, 1905: Korea becomes a Japanese protectorate under the Korean-Japanese Convention of 1905. In 1906 the office of Resident General or Japanese administrator is established in Korea. 1906: The South Manchurian Railway is founded as a semi-official Japanese company. From 1907 to 1945 it will administer railways and economic development of Manchuria. Tea began as a medicine and grew into a beverage. . . . The fifteenth century saw Japan ennoble it into a religion of aestheticism . . . a cult founded on the adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of everyday existence. It inculcates purity and harmony, the mystery of mutual charity, the romanticism of the social order. It is essentially a worship of the Imperfect, as it is a tender attempt to accomplish something possible in this impossible thing we know as life. The Book of Tea, by Okakura Kakuzo (1906)

July 24, 1907: Resident General Ito Hirobumi

assumes complete control of Korean government, after forcing the abdication of King


Kojong. The Korean-Japanese Convention of 1907 effectively allows Japan to control Korean internal affairs. On August 1 Ito disbands the Korean army. 1907–1908: In a so-called Gentlemen’s Agreement, the governments of the United States and Japan exchange a series of six notes that spell out the U.S. ban on Japanese immigration, and the Japanese promise not to issue passports to the United States for emigrant laborers. Secrecy of the pact avoids the public humiliation of Japan. November 30, 1908: With the Takahira-Root Agreement, the United States recognizes Japan’s special interest in Manchuria while Japan recognizes U.S. interests in Hawaii and the Philippines. October 26, 1909: A Korean nationalist assassinates Japan’s Resident General, Ito Hirobumi, in Manchuria. May 20, 1910: In the High Treason Incident of 1910, an anarchist plot to assassinate Emperor Meiji is discovered; it leads to mass arrests, several executions, and the suppression of leftists. August 22, 1910: Japan officially annexes Korea. A treaty between Korea and Japan transforms Korea into Choson, a Japanese colony until 1945. July 30, 1912: Emperor Meiji dies. He is succeeded by his third son Yoshihito, later called Emperor Taisho (reigns 1912–1926). On the evening of the funeral, Army General Nogi Maresuke (1849–1912) and his wife commit ritual suicide.

TAISHO PERIOD: 1912–1926 The Taisho (Great Righteousness) Period covers the reign of Emperor Yoshihito, posthumously called Emperor Taisho. Though relatively short, it encompasses important milestones. As an ally on the victorious side in World War I, Japan emerges dominant in the western Pacific sphere and as one of the Big Five powers. It expands its colonial territories, and benefits from a war-induced boom fueled in part by a shift to heavy industry in order to manufacture armaments, as well as from the withdrawal of European colonial powers that produced textiles and other vital consumer goods in East Asia. The early postwar years see economic setbacks, with inflation and widespread rice riots.



Despite a disastrous Siberian intervention, Japan now is a major participant in international diplomatic initiatives. The Tokyo-Yokohama earthquake wreaks unprecedented destruction, but reconstruction projects help improve the economy. A significant accomplishment is the development of party government with broad popular involvement derived from the rise of an educated urban middle class and of modern mass media. But the democratic experiment is relatively short-lived, followed by a swing back toward authoritarianism and a strident nationalism. February 11, 1913: The cabinet of Katsura

Taro (1847–1913) collapses during the Taisho political crisis under pressure from the Movement to Protect Constitutional Government. This is the first time a Japanese populist movement brings down a cabinet; it opens the way for the first party-dominated cabinet in 1918. January 21, 1914: Incriminating documents published in a London newspaper reveal the Siemens scandal, in which a German company paid kickbacks for Japanese navy contracts. Mass protests lead to the March 24 resignation of the cabinet. This is but one of a series of spectacular political scandals In Japan between 1905 and 1915. August 23, 1914: Japan declares war on Germany, entering World War I on the side of Great Britain and the Allies. On September 2 Japan seizes German possessions on Shandong peninsula; in October, Japan ousts Germans from the Mariana, Caroline, and Marshall islands. May 25, 1915: With the Twenty-one Demands, Japan calls for territorial and other concessions from China. July 3, 1916: Japan and Russia sign a mutual assistance pact. January 1917–September 1918: In a series of eight Nishihara Loans, Japan gives financial assistance to China, essentially to support a corrupt government and to finance civil war against its rivals. In return Japan gets recognition of its claims in Shandong Province and privileges in Manchuria. November 2, 1917: With the Lansing-Ishii Pact, the United States and Japan agree to an Open Door Policy in China, and the United States recognizes Japanese special

interests in China. Japan annuls the pact in 1923. July 23–September 1918: Some 623 violent rice riots throughout Japan protest high prices caused by spiraling inflation; leads to the collapse of the Terauchi cabinet. November 1918: As part of the Allied effort to protect military supplies in Vladivostok in the so-called Siberian Intervention during the Russian Bolshevik revolution, some seventy thousand Japanese troops settle into the Maritime Province and northern Manchuria. The other Allies withdraw in June 1920 but Japan remains, continuing to fight the Soviets until October 1922, when Japanese troops finally leave. 1918: By year’s end Japan holds parts of mainland China, some of northern Manchuria, and areas in eastern Siberia. March 1, 1919–Spring 1920: In Korea, the Samil Independence Movement begins nonviolent demonstrations, eventually involving 2 million Koreans. Violent suppression by Japan leaves 7,500 dead and 47,000 arrested. June 28, 1919: Along with other victorious nations, Japan signs the Treaty of Versailles ending World War I. Japan gets control over the Mariana, Caroline, and Marshall islands, along with former German holdings in the Shandong peninsula. January 16, 1920: As a permanent member, Japan attends the Paris Council meeting of the League of Nations. February–May 1920: In the Manchurian town of Nikolaevsk near the mouth of the Amur River, several hundred Japanese residents are massacred by Bolshevik partisans during the Russian Civil War. Soviets exe-

Political History

cute the perpetrators; Japanese retaliate by occupying Sakhalin, demanding compensation. This incident delays Japanese recognition of the Soviet Union until 1925. May 1, 1920: First May Day celebration in Japan by labor activists in Tokyo’s Ueno Park. 1920: Feminist Ichikawa Fusae (1893–1981) helps found Shin fujin kyokai (New Women’s Association), Japan’s first national women’s rights group. A worker for women’s suffrage, she is elected to the Diet in 1953 and serves for twenty-five years. November 4, 1921: In Tokyo an ultra-rightist radical assassinates prime minister Hara Takashi (1856–1921), the first commoner prime minister and an architect of party government. November 1921–February 6, 1922: The Washington Conference results in the December 13, 1921, Four-Power Treaty pledging Japan, Britain, France, and the United States to mutual consultation in the Pacific region. The Nine-Power Treaty of February 6, 1922, recognizes the Open Door principle in East Asia; the Washington Naval Treaty, also of February 6, limits the ratio of naval vessels and armaments, allowing reductions by signatory nations in military expenditures. September 1, 1923: At 11:58 am a powerful earthquake strikes Tokyo and Yokohama. Two days of intense firestorms follow in Tokyo; 142,807 are dead or missing, 103,733 are injured, and 3,248,205 are left homeless. Ru-


mors that Korean residents are setting fires and poisoning wells lead vigilantes to massacre thousands of Koreans. Martial law is imposed; police take advantage of the chaos to kill ten labor activists in the Kameido Incident of September 4 and on September 16 kill anarchist Osugi Sakae, along with his wife and nephew. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Tokyo Imperial Hotel, just completed, survives tremors. (It is demolished in 1967.) December 27, 1923: In the Toranomon Incident, a leftist radical unsuccessfully attempts to assassinate Prince Regent Hirohito. May 26, 1924: The U.S. Immigration Act of 1925 bans further immigration from Japan. From 1868 to 1924 some 270,000 Japanese emigrate to Hawaii and the United States. January 20, 1925: The Soviet Union and Japan sign a convention establishing diplomatic relations. In recognizing the new communist regime, Japan agrees to withdraw from northern Sakhalin while retaining partial rights to natural resources there. The Soviet Union agrees to limit communist activism in Japan. February 20, 1925: The Universal Manhood Suffrage Law passes, laying the groundwork for the national elections of February 1928. May 12, 1925: The Peace Preservation Law of 1925 limits freedom of assembly and speech. December 25, 1926: Emperor Yoshihito dies, having been ill since 1921. He is succeeded by his son, Emperor Hirohito (reigns 1926– 1989).

E A R LY S H O WA P E R I O D : 1 9 2 6 – 1 9 4 5 Showa is the period name adopted by Emperor Hirohito on his succession to the throne. Its meaning, “Enlightened Peace,” is ironic in retrospect when referring to the early period. Those decades encompass some of the more warlike and violent years of the twentieth century. As nationalist and military concerns come to preoccupy the government, its forces engage in further ventures on the Asian mainland—annexing Manchuria and part of Mongolia to set up the puppet state of Manchukuo, and entering into a second Sino-Japanese War against nationalist and communist Chinese factions. With entry into World War II, Japan’s initial suc-



cesses rapidly enlarge its empire in the East Asia-western Pacific sphere as it seizes colonies of the Western powers. Naval reverses at Midway change the direction of the conflict, and Japan begins a series of desperately fought battles that end in the nuclear holocaust of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It all concludes in a humiliating defeat and occupation of the islands by the Allied powers. May 1927: Japan and China reach accord on

April 16, 1929: In the April 16 Incident, the

the March 24 Nanjing Incident, when Chinese Nationalist soldiers attacked foreign businesses and consulates, including those of Japan. Japan and the Western powers seek punishment, indemnities, and an apology. 1927–1928: Cabinet orders three Japanese expeditions to China’s Shandong Province in order to block the Nationalist Chinese forces of Chiang Kai-shek. From May 1 to September 1927 four thousand troops are sent, allegedly to protect Japanese residents; they are withdrawn when Chiang stops the advance. In May 1928 Japanese and Nationalist forces clash at Jinan, with serious Chinese casualties; more Japanese troops are sent and stationed throughout Shandong Province and northern China. All forces are withdrawn when a pact is signed for the Jinan Incident. In 1929 the text is published in Nanjing of an alleged memorandum of July 25, 1927, to Emperor Hirohito from Prime Minister Tanaka Giichi (1864–1929) outlining a plan for the conquest of Manchuria and Mongolia. Japan denies authenticity of the document. March 15, 1928: In the March 15 Incident, mass arrests are made throughout Japan of 1,658 suspected communists in response to activities of the outlawed Japan Communist Party. The government prosecutes five hundred and exploits the situation to ban other leftist parties and organizations. June 4, 1928: Extremist army officers of the Japanese Guandong Army in Manchuria assassinate warlord Zhang Zuolin by blowing up his train. August 27, 1928: In Paris, an antiwar treaty known as the Kellogg-Briand Pact is signed by fourteen nations and a reluctant Japan. The agreement affects Japan’s ability to intervene militarily in China and Manchuria. Later forty-eight other nations join the pact.

government carries out mass arrest of some six hundred to seven hundred suspected communists. About half are tried and found guilty. January 21, 1930: The London Naval Conference opens. A treaty signed on April 22 limits Japanese eight-inch gun cruisers; it allows 70 percent strength in other cruisers and destroyers, parity in submarines. Crisis over ratification pits Japan’s naval administration against the civil government, and marks the increasing intervention of the military in national politics. November 1930: In Tokyo, a right-wing youth shoots Prime Minister Hamaguchi Osachi (1870–1931); he dies from wounds in August 1931. March 1931: Right-wing army officers and civilians attempt a coup d’e´tat in order to impose military government and national reform along totalitarian lines. This March Incident is the first of a series of similar attempts, some quite violent, by military extremists to overthrow the government during this era; these attempts are kept secret by the army until the end of World War II. The slogan of right-wing extremists is “Showa Restoration.” June 25, 1931–July 2, 1932: A public trial of three hundred communists arrested for violation of the Peace Preservation Law of 1925 is staged to reveal the inner workings of the Communist Party. All are sentenced on October 29, 1932, to jail as part of the tenko policy of recantation and rehabilitation for “thought criminals.” September 18, 1931: In the Liutaogou Incident, Japanese military personnel detonate a bomb on the rails of the South Manchurian Railway north of Mukden, then accuse Chi-

Political History

nese troops of the deed. Japan uses the event as a pretext to seize the Chinese garrison and Mukden. September 1931–January 1933: Following the capture of Mukden, the Japanese Guandong Army conquers all Manchuria. This action is initially opposed by politicians and military officers in Japan. January 28–May 5, 1932: In the Shanghai Incident, a skirmish between Chinese and Japanese troops in Shanghai follows from an incident fomented by Japanese officers, in which a Chinese mob attacked Japanese Buddhist priests. Clashes escalate to fullscale fighting until the Chinese withdraw. A truce agreement mandates a demilitarized zone and an end to a Chinese boycott on Japanese goods (in response to the Japanese conquest of Manchuria). February 9, 1932: In the League of Blood Incident, an ultranationalist group murders a politician and industrialist; arrests uncover a list of twenty prominent assassination targets. February 18, 1932: The Japanese Guandong Army declares the puppet state of Manchukuo, in effect until August 1945, encompassing all Manchuria and part of Inner Mongolia, with a population of some 40 million. On March 9 Puyi, the last emperor of China, is installed as ceremonial head of state while Japanese advisors hold real power. March 27, 1933: Japan announces its withdrawal from the League of Nations after being criticized in the Lytton Commission report as the aggressor in Manchuria. May 31, 1933: After Japanese troops move into region, the Tanggu Truce establishes an armistice, with the Great Wall as the boundary between Japanese and Chinese forces and a demilitarized zone north and east of Beijing. December 29, 1934: Japan announces that it will withdraw (by December 1936) from the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 and the London Naval Treaty of 1930. June 10, 1935: In secret He-Umezu Agreement in order to ward off more aggressive


Japanese actions, China agrees to remove forces and nationalist organs from Hebei Province (including Beijing and Tianjin), to limit nationalist activity, and to ban anti-Japanese movements. December 1935–January 15, 1936: At the second London Naval Conference, Japan seeks full parity with the U.S. and British navies. When the proposal is rejected, Japan withdraws from the conference, thus ending the system that limited naval rivalry in the Pacific for fifteen years. 1935: Champion of democratic government and retired law professor Minobe Tatsukichi (1873–1948) proposes the theory of Emperoras-Organ-of-the-State; he is charged with a crime against the authority of the state and forced to resign from the House of Peers. The years 1935–1937 see a purge of academics and officials. February 26–29, 1936: A military rebellion of 1,400 troops led by junior officers seizes central Tokyo, kills political leaders, and demands a new cabinet and political reforms. The trial of leaders results in executions and imprisonment. March 9, 1936: A new cabinet is dominated by military members; it soon leads to military budget increases and greater censorship. October 1, 1936: Japan’s secret demands on China are revealed: they include Japanese advisers in the Chinese government, autonomy for five northern provinces, and tariff reductions to 1928 levels. Despite invasion threat, the Nanjing government refuses. November 24, 1936: In the Anti-Comintern Pact, Germany and Japan agree to oppose the Soviet Union. (Italy will sign the pact on November 6, 1937.) January 28, 1937: Nationalist and Communist Chinese agree to cooperate against the common Japanese enemy. July 7–11, 1937: In the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, Japanese and Chinese forces clash at a bridge twelve miles southwest of Beijing. After a cease-fire, Japan mobilizes five additional divisions and on July 23 Chinese



troops reenter Beijing. Thus begins the Sino-Japanese War of 1937–1945. July 29, 1937: Japanese forces capture Beijing and Tianjin. On August 25 Japan announces a naval blockade of the entire Chinese coastline. August–November 1937: Japanese forces attack Shanghai with a naval bombardment and 200,000-man army. Hand-to-hand combat forces the 500,000-man Chinese army into retreat. November 3–24, 1937: The Brussels Conference seeking to end Sino-Japanese hostilities fails when Japan does not attend. December 13, 1937: The Nationalist Chinese capital of Nanjing falls after several days fighting. A massacre ensues as some 140,000 civilians and prisoners of war die in a threeweek orgy by Japanese troops of arson, looting, torture, rape, and murder. On March 30, 1940, Japanese establish a puppet Chinese government in the city. December 15, 1937: The Popular Front Incident marks widespread repression of liberals and leftists in Japan, as government arrests left-wing socialist leaders and some four hundred others; it also dissolves left-wing political parties. In February 1938 a second wave of arrests for “obstructing the war effort” sweeps up intellectuals and university professors; many are jailed until the end of World War II. May 5, 1938: The National Mobilization Law becomes effective, placing controls on industry, labor, contracts, prices, and the news media. May 15, 1938: The Japanese encircle Xuzhou and capture it four days later. As Japanese pursue Chinese forces and capture large cities, Chinese guerrillas remain active in the countryside. July 11–August 10, 1938: Clash between Japanese and Russian troops along the Manchukuo-Choson (Korea) border ends with a truce and heavy losses for the Japanese. October 21, 1938: Japanese troops capture the major southern Chinese port city of Guang-

zhou. On October 25 five Japanese columns capture Hankou after the Nationalist government retreats to Chongqing. November 3, 1938: Japan announces a “New Order in East Asia,” a slogan that rationalizes the invasion of China. May 2–September 15, 1939: In the Nomohan Incident, Mongolian and Japanese troops clash along the Manchuria-Outer Mongolia border; the Soviet Union sends mechanized units to aid Mongolia. They defeat the Japanese Guandong Army’s 23d Division, with 17,450 Japanese casualties. June 14, 1939: Japanese troops blockade the British and French concession in Tianjin. Britain, France, and the Soviet Union aid the Nationalist military effort. July 1939: The National Service Draft Ordinance ensures a labor supply for strategic Japanese war industries. Some 1.6 million men and women labor draftees are joined by 4.5 million workers reclassified as draftees. March 30, 1940: Japan installs a puppet government in China headed by Nationalist politician Wang Ching-wei. August–November 1940: Prime Minister Konoe Fumimaro (1891–1945) tries to establish the totalitarian New Order; failure to do so reveals the vitality of the nation’s political factions. September 22, 1940: Following negotiations with the French Vichy government, Japan begins to move troops into Indochina to block supplies to Nationalist Chinese. September 27, 1940: Japan, Germany, and Italy sign the Tripartite Pact, promising mutual military support. October 12, 1940: The Imperial Rule Assistance Association is founded to promote goals of New Order Movement; it becomes an agent for morale and resource control during World War II as all Japanese subjects are members. April 13, 1941: In the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact, each pledges neutrality during World War II. July 26, 1941: Because of the Japanese mili-

Political History

tary occupation of Indochina, Japanese assets in the United States and Britain are frozen. The Dutch soon freeze assets in the Dutch East Indies and cancel oil contracts. These steps reduce Japanese foreign trade by 75 percent and imported oil supplies by 90 percent. To alleviate shortages, Japanese make unsuccessful diplomatic overtures to the United States on August 6. October 16, 1941: General Hideki Tojo (1884–1948) becomes prime minister. December 7, 1941: Following a series of unsuccessful U.S.-Japanese negotiations, planes from a Japanese naval carrier force (which set sail on November 26) carry out a surprise attack on the U.S. Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Within the next twenty-four hours Japanese forces attack U.S. bases in the Philippines, Guam, and Midway as well as British bases in Hong Kong and Malaysia. December 8, 1941: The United States declares war on Japan and becomes an ally of China, still mired in the Sino-Japanese War. U.S. air power will eventually help protect Chinese cities from the Japanese. A small force of Japanese land on Batan Islands, north of Luzon in the Philippines. December 10, 1941: Japanese forces capture Guam. December 27, 1941–April 9, 1942: Under heavy Japanese attack, U.S. authorities declare Manila an open city; it is captured on January 2, 1942, as U.S. forces retreat toward Bataan. On March 11, 1942, General Douglas MacArthur leaves the Philippines, promising to return. On April 9, 1942, Allied forces on Luzon surrender. The Japanese march 75,000 prisoners some hundred miles under horrifying conditions to a prison camp. December 18–25, 1941: Japanese troops capture Hong Kong. December 22–23, 1941: Japanese forces occupy Wake Island after the U.S. garrison surrenders.


January 11–March 12, 1942: Japanese forces

attack and occupy the Dutch East Indies. January 14, 1942: The United States orders

alien registration; this facilitates the relocation of some 100,000 West Coast JapaneseAmericans (nisei) to internment camps for the duration of the war. February 8–15, 1942: Japanese troops invade Singapore, forcing the surrender of British and Australian troops. On February 19 Japanese planes bomb Darwin in a rare attack on Australia. February 27–March 1, 1942: Japanese and Allied naval forces engage in a series of battles, with disastrous outcome for the Allies. On February 28 Japanese forces land on Java. March 7, 1942: Japanese forces begin the occupation of New Guinea and of the Burmese city of Rangoon as British forces evacuate. On April 29 Japanese troops cut off the Burmese overland route to China. April 18, 1942: Sixteen U.S. B-25 bombers take off from an air carrier and carry out the first raid on Tokyo and three other cities. May 4–8, 1942: In the Battle of Coral Sea, U.S. forces inflict heavy losses on Japanese. May 5–7, 1942: Japanese forces occupy Corregidor, off Bataan, and accept the surrender of fifteen thousand U.S. and Filipino troops. June 3–7, 1942: Japan meets its first serious setback in the Battle of Midway, losing four carriers and many of its best pilots. June 6–7, 1942: Japanese forces capture the Aleutian islands of Kiska and Attu off Alaska. On May 11–30, 1943, U.S. forces retake Attu; on August 15, 1943, U.S. and Canadian forces reclaim Kiska. October 25–26, 1942: In support of their forces on Guadalcanal, Japanese and U.S. fleets fight the Battle of Santa Cruz, in which serious losses force the Japanese to draw back. In the November 13–15 naval Battle of Guadalcanal, U.S. forces gain sea control. On January 5, 1943, Japan begins to withdraw troops from the island, and on February 9 the United States recaptures it. August 1, 1943: Japan announces the inde-



pendence of Burma under a new puppet Japanese government there. British forces retake Rangoon on May 3, 1945. August 16–23, 1943: Japanese suffer serious losses during the U.S. bombardment of their base at Wewak, New Guinea. January 31–February 23, 1944: U.S. forces capture the Marshall Islands, first prewar Japanese domain to be seized. February 3, 1944: U.S. battleships shell the Kurile Islands off northern Japan. April 22, 1944: Allied forces recapture Hollandia in Dutch New Guinea. June 15–July 9, 1944: U.S. forces recapture Saipan in the Marianas, leaving 27,000 dead Japanese. June 18–20, 1944: In the key Battle of the Philippine Sea, Japan loses three carriers and four hundred planes. This series of Japanese losses forces Tojo to resign as prime minister on July 18. August 10, 1944: U.S. forces retake Guam, taking fewer than a hundred Japanese prisoners from a garrison of 100,000. October 23–26, 1944: In the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the Japanese suffer a major naval defeat; they will have to rely increasingly on suicide missions of kamikaze (divine wind) fighter pilots, used here for the first time. On January 9, 1945, a U.S. invasion force begins landings on Luzon; after hard fighting, it recaptures Manila on March 3. February 16–17, 1945: U.S. bombers carry out heavy raids on Tokyo and Yokohama. February 19–March 26, 1945: U.S. forces recapture Iwo Jima with great difficulty, gaining a base within strategic airplane range of

Japan. Corregidor is retaken on February 26, with heavy Japanese losses. March 9–10, 1945: In the Pacific war’s most deadly air raid, U.S. incendiary bombs ignite a massive firestorm in Tokyo, leaving some 120,000 civilians dead. March 18–21, 1945: A U.S. naval fleet begins the bombardment of Japan; six carriers are damaged by kamikaze pilots. March 23–31, 1945: U.S. forces begin an attack on the Ryukyu Islands in advance of landing on Okinawa. April 1–June 22, 1945: In the largest such operation in the Pacific, U.S. forces invade Okinawa. After almost three months, the Japanese surrender, but some 162,000 of their soldiers and civilians have been killed, and the United States has lost 12,500 soldiers. July 5, 1945: General MacArthur announces the liberation of the Philippines. July 26, 1945: Allies broadcast the Potsdam Declaration to Japan, calling for unconditional surrender. August 6, 1945: A U.S. airplane drops an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, instantly killing some eighty thousand Japanese. On 9 August a second bomb is detonated over Nagasaki, killing forty thousand. August 14, 1945: Overriding military and political leaders, Emperor Hirohito decides to end the war by submitting to unconditional surrender. After a failed last-minute attempt by some military officers to seize the emperor, on August 15 he informs the Japanese people of his decision by means of an unprecedented radio broadcast (the first time the Japanese people have heard an emperor’s voice).

L AT E S H O WA P E R I O D : 1 9 4 5 – 1 9 8 9 The postwar era covers the second part of the Showa period, ending with Emperor Hirohito’s death in 1989. The decades after World War II prove an era of remarkable change. Under the Occupation, Japan is forced to undergo far-reaching reform along democratic lines of its political, economic, and social institutions.

Political History


With the Korean War begins an industrial recovery that eventually builds Japan into a world economic superpower, known for the high quality of its automobiles and electronic consumer products. The economic miracle is accompanied by problems of environmental pollution, political corruption, student unrest and terrorism, and enormous trade surpluses. From an aloof and self-contained culture, Japan now has become a leader and partner among nations, thoroughly engaged in the international arena. September 2, 1945: In Tokyo Bay, Japanese

officials sign surrender instruments on the deck of the USS Missouri. With more than 2 million war dead and many cities and factories destroyed, Japan faces Allied occupation until 1952. The Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP) is General Douglas MacArthur (1880–1969), who commands 500,000 troops and supervises military and civilian bureaucrats who dismantle the Japanese empire and war machine. The occupation repatriates 6 million Japanese military and citizens, conducts war-crimes trials and purges, and reforms through the Japanese government the nation’s political and economic structure. January 1, 1946: Emperor Hirohito delivers a New Year’s message renouncing his status as a “living god.” January 4, 1946: SCAP orders a purge of the “undesirable” political elite, career military, militarists, ultra-nationalists, and business and publishing magnates from wartime positions and public office. This removal of some 200,000 allows a new generation of leaders to emerge. In spring 1946 SCAP installs Yoshida Shigeru (1878–1967), Liberal Party leader, as the new prime minister. The first postwar election takes place in April. May 3, 1946–November 1948: A Tokyo warcrimes trial convenes to consider charges against twenty-eight political and military leaders. On December 23, 1948, wartime premier Hideki Tojo and six others are hanged. MacArthur releases the rest under amnesty. In a series of minor trials some 6,000 Japanese are tried; 920 are sentenced to death for atrocities. May 3, 1947: A new constitution takes effect:

it mandates the emperor as a symbol of state and of the unity of the Japanese people, a bicameral parliamentary government, basic civil rights, freedom of religion, and separation of church and state; it also bans gender discrimination and renounces war. Supplementary legislation extends the vote to women, lessens patriarchal authority, and revises election procedures, judiciary, and legal codes. The Local Autonomy Law gives a degree of self-government to prefectures, cities, towns, and villages. May 3–December 1950: Following a demonstration and a series of terrorist incidents in 1949 allegedly instigated by communists, MacArthur denounces the Japan Communist Party. A “Red purge” of 1,177 government employees is followed by a purge of 10,972 private-sector workers. June 25, 1950: The Korean War breaks out. Japan becomes a staging area and supply depot; as a partly military economy takes hold, production reaches 1936 levels by 1952. Boom conditions, inflation, and high growth prevail, leading to the economic miracle of the 1960s and 1970s. On July 8 General MacArthur calls for the creation of a National Police Reserve of 75,000 to replace U.S. troops sent to Korea. In 1954 it is reorganized as the Self-Defense Forces under the direction of a new cabinetlevel Defense Agency. September 8, 1951: Japan signs the San Francisco peace treaty with forty-nine nations, formally ending the war: Japan loses all territory seized since 1895, agrees to pay reparations (not strictly enforced), and submits to indefinite U.S. trusteeship of the Ryukyus, including Okinawa.



April 28, 1952: Occupation formally ends and

the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty takes effect: the United States maintains forces in Japan, while Japan contributes financially. U.S. military bases lead to problems with nearby Japanese who resent aircraft noise, nuclear weapons, and periodic injuries to and crimes against Japanese citizens and property by soldiers. The U.S.-Japan Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement (March 1954) will reinforce the treaty, by allowing the United States to provide military equipment and technology and Japan to develop defense industry. April 29, 1952: Japan signs a peace treaty with China. The pact does not prevent Chinese gunboats from firing on Japanese patrols and seizing numerous Japanese fishing boats. May 1, 1952: May Day riots express anti-U.S. feelings. More than 2,000 are injured and 1,232 are arrested. April 27, 1953: Crown Prince Akihito arrives in England to attend the coronation of Queen Elizabeth ii. Afterward he continues with a six-month world tour. December 24, 1953: The United States returns some of the Ryukyu Islands to Japan. In 1968 the Bonin Islands are returned. January 1954: In a shipbuilding scandal, seventy-one officials and others are arrested for bribery in exchange for contracts and subsidies; the scandal leads to the fall of the fifth Yoshida cabinet. March 1, 1954: In the Lucky Dragon Incident, radioactive fallout from a U.S. atomic bomb test contaminates a Japanese fishing boat; this results in a massive outcry in Japan and the growth of the antinuclear movement. Later the United States pays $2 million compensation to Japan for damages from a series of five bomb tests. Japan protests British, Chinese, and French nuclear tests as well. October 19, 1956: The Soviet-Japanese Joint Declaration ends state of war, restores diplomatic relations; lingering territorial issues

over the Kurile Islands prevent the conclusion to this date of the official peace treaty. December 18, 1956: Japan becomes a United Nations member. January 19, 1960: The United States and Japan sign the Treaty of Cooperation and Security of 1960: it highlights peaceful intentions, economic cooperation, consultation before increased troop deployments. Widespread Japanese protest by peace activists over ratification leads to cancellation of planned June visit by U.S. President Eisenhower. July 18, 1960: As Welfare Minister, Nakayama Masa is the first woman to enter the cabinet. October 12, 1960: Chairman of the Socialist Party Asanuma Inejiro is stabbed to death by a right-wing youth at a political rally. August 7, 1964–March 29, 1973: As the United States enters Vietnam War, Japanese economy will benefit and the government officially supports the United States. In 1965 Japanese opponents of war found the Peace for Vietnam Committee to hold teach-ins and support U.S. army deserters. June 22, 1965: The Korea-Japan Treaty restores diplomatic relations with South Korea; supplementary agreements treat legal rights of Koreans in Japan. October 13, 1971: Emperor Hirohito completes a goodwill tour of Europe, the first by a reigning Japanese emperor. In 1975, he will pay a similar visit to the United States. May 30, 1972: Japanese terrorists kill twentyfour and wound seventy-six in a Tel Aviv airport attack. They are part of the Red Army Faction, formed in 1969 by dissident student members of Communist League, who advocate world revolution. In 1970–1971 they carry out bombings, robberies, and a plane hijacking in Japan. Their international activities from this date on include embassy seizures in Netherlands and Malaysia. May 15, 1972: The United States returns Okinawa to Japan; military bases there remain

Political History

the center of U.S. strategic forces in the Far East. November 22, 1973: Japan revises its Middle East policy and recognizes Palestinian rights in response to the oil crisis, when OPEC quadruples crude-oil prices. August 15, 1974: A diplomatic crisis ensues following the attempted murder of the South Korean president by an assassin who entered from Japan. On September 12 Japan issues a statement of “regret” and promises a full investigation. October 8, 1974: Sato Eisaku (1901–1975) wins the Nobel Peace Prize. As Japan’s longest continuously serving premier (1964–1972), he normalized relations with South Korea, oversaw the return of Okinawa, and signed the 1970 nuclear nonproliferation treaty. February 5, 1976: The Lockheed Scandal erupts as a U.S. Senate subcommittee discovers that the aircraft corporation paid bribes and kickbacks to sell planes in Japan. Revelation of government corruption leads to the arrests of seventeen, including former prime minister Tanaka Kakuei (1918– ). September 6–November 12, 1976: A defecting Soviet pilot seeking U.S. asylum lands a MiG-25 fighter plane in Hokkaido. Japan allows the United States to inspect the plane before returning it to the USSR. August 12, 1978: China and Japan sign the Peace and Friendship Treaty, normalizing relations and opening the way to commercial agreements. July 24–August 26, 1982: Diplomatic crisis arises as China, Taiwan, and both Koreas protest history textbook revisions that downplay Japanese aggression of the 1930s and


1940s. Despite a Japanese promise to correct the problem, similar incidents occur in 1986 and 1988. Later Rashomon won the American Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Japanese critics insisted that these two prizes were simply reflections of Westerners’ curiosity and taste for Oriental exoticism, which struck me then, and now, as terrible. Why is it that Japanese people have no confidence in the worth of Japan? Why do they elevate everything foreign and denigrate everything Japanese? Even the woodblock prints of Utamaro, Hokusai and Sharaku were not appreciated by Japanese until they were first discovered by the West. Something Like an Autobiography, by Kurosawa Akira (1982)

September 6–8, 1984: When South Korea’s

president pays a state visit, Emperor Hirohito apologizes for harsh rule in the past. July 6, 1988–May 29, 1989: The Recruit Scandal emerges when it is revealed that staffs of prominent politicians received gifts of stocks from the Recruit Company in 1986, from which they realized large profits. Eventually seventeen are indicted and charged with corruption. January 7, 1989: The longest reigning emperor (sixty-two years) in recorded history, Hirohito dies. His son, Crown Prince Akihito, ascends the throne later in the day but is not formally enthroned until November 1990. Six days of national mourning follow the death, and the state funeral is held on February 24, 1989.



HEISEI PERIOD: 1989–1998 The period name of Emperor Akihito’s reign, beginning in 1989, is Heisei, meaning “attainment of peace.” As the century draws to a close, one of Japan’s greater postwar challenges arises as internal financial problems are followed by an East Asian monetary crisis threatening massive Japanese loans in the region. June 2, 1989: Foreign Minister Sosuke Uno

July 18, 1993: In the elections, the Liberal

is elected premier, replacing Noboru Takeshita, who resigns because of his role in the Recruit Company corruption scandal. August 9, 1989: Sosuke Uno is himself forced to resign when he is connected to the Recruit Company’s payoffs to political figures. He is replaced by former Education Minister Toshiki Kaifu. November 12, 1990: Akihito (1933– ) is formally enthroned as Japan’s 125th emperor in a splendid ceremony in Tokyo. January 17, 1991: In the Persian Gulf War, Japan refuses combat role but assists with costs; in April, it sends out minesweepers. October 4, 1991: Premier Toshiki Kaifu announces that he will not seek reelection. On November 5 he is replaced by Kiichi Miyazawa. January 17, 1992: Premier Miyazawa, visiting South Korea, apologizes for the Japanese army’s forced use of Korean women as prostitutes, the so-called comfort women. From 1932 to 1945 the Japanese military enslaved some 200,000 Asian women, half of them Korean, as prostitutes in army brothels. June 15, 1992: The Japanese Diet gives final approval to a bill allowing up to two thousand military personnel to be sent abroad to participate in UN peacekeeping missions. Japan’s constitution forbade use of military for nondefensive purposes. October 1992: Under the new law, the first six hundred Japanese troops arrive in Cambodia as part of UN peacekeeping operations. June 18, 1993: The Miyazawa government falls when some of his own Liberal Democratic Party members join the opposition in a no-confidence vote. He dissolves the Diet and calls for new elections.

Democratic Party loses its majority in the Diet. On August 6 Morihiro Hosokawa is elected premier of a seven-party coalition, ending thirty-eight consecutive years of rule by the Liberal Democratic Party. October 20–December 11, 1993: Empress Michiko collapses on October 20 and loses her speech faculties; by December 11 it is announced that she is beginning to recover. It is believed that her condition has been caused by the unprecedented criticism of her in the Japanese media. April 8–June 29, 1994: Amid allegations of financial improprieties, Hosokawa resigns as premier on April 8. Tsutomu Hata is elected premier on April 25, but he resigns on June 25. On June 29, Murayama Tomiichi, leader of the Social Democratic Party, becomes the first socialist premier since 1948. March 20, 1995: Sarin nerve gas is released in the Tokyo subway system during the morning rush hour, killing twelve and injuring over five thousand. On March 22 police raid the offices of Aum Shinrikyo, a religious cult suspected of carrying out the attack. After other raids on the cult’s locations, police seize leader Asahara Shoko on May 16. June 9, 1995: The Diet passes a resolution declaring “deep remorse” for Japan’s “acts of aggression” against other Asian nations in World War II. Although appreciated, this still does not constitute a formal apology. August 15, 1995: On the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War II, Premier Murayama issues a “heartfelt apology” for the war; this is the first time that any Japanese leader has apologized, and it goes some way toward helping Japan to defuse its problems with South Korea, China, the Philippines, and other Asian nations.

Political History

And this is the miracle of art. For in the music or literature we create, though we have come to know despair—that dark night of the soul through which we have to pass—we find that by actually giving it expression we can be healed . . . and as these linked experiences of pain and recovery are added to one another, layer upon layer, not only is the artist’s work enriched but its benefits are shared with others. Kaifuku suru kazoku (A Healing Family), by Kenzaburo Oe (1995)

September 4, 1995–March 7, 1996: Three

U.S. servicemen abduct and rape an Okinawan schoolgirl on September 4; on March 7, 1996, they are sentenced to prison by a Japanese court. The incident renews debate about U.S. bases on Okinawa; of some 44,000 U.S. troops in Japan, 26,000 are in Okinawa. January 5, 1996: Premier Murayama resigns abruptly; on January 11, the Diet elects Ryutoro Hashimoto, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, as premier. As a fifty-eight-yearold, Hashimoto is seen as representing a turnover to a younger, more dynamic generation of Japanese leaders. August 14, 1996: The World War II “comfort women” issue begins to wind down with an official apology and arrangements for compensation. September 8, 1996: In reaction to an agreement in April under which almost all U.S. military installations on Okinawa would be returned to Japan in about seven years, Okinawa holds a nonbinding referendum; 89 percent of Okinawan voters call for an immediate reduction of the U.S. military on their island. But on September 10, Premier Hashimoto offers Okinawa $45.4 million for development projects, and on September 13, the governor of Okinawa agrees to renew the lease. December 17, 1996–April 22, 1997: In Lima, Peru, to seek the release of imprisoned compatriots, some twenty-five members of the


Tupac Amaru revolutionary movement seize the Japanese ambassador’s residence along with six hundred hostages, including relatives of Peru’s President Alberto Fujimori, who is of Japanese ancestry. After months of frustrating negotiation, a daring military rescue of some four hundred remaining hostages takes place on live TV. September 23, 1997: Japan and the United States announce that they have reached an agreement on a new cooperative regional security, expanding the role of Japan’s forces in supporting U.S. troops in “areas surrounding Japan.” November 24, 1997: Following a series of banking and brokerage failures, Yamaichi Securities is the largest Japanese company to collapse in the postwar era. After a speculative land and stock price bubble burst in 1989, the real estate and financial services sectors have been slowly slipping into crisis. Payoff scandals, illegal trading, government protection of weak banks and brokerage houses, and the practice of shielding favored clients from investment losses (tobashi) magnify the situation. The monetary crisis that began in Thailand in July and spread to Indonesia, Malaysia, and South Korea follows on a Japanese lending binge in the region, thus adding further to financial woes. Government’s “big bang” financial reforms package is scheduled to take effect on April 1, 1998, but it comes too late to prevent several prominent Japanese government and business leaders from committing suicide. July 12, 1998: In elections for the Diet that have been framed as a referendum on the ruling party’s handling of Japan’s financial crisis, the Liberal Democrats lose seventeen seats. On July 13, Premier Hashimoto announces that he will resign. On July 30 Foreign Minister Keizo Obuchi is named the new premier. A moderate in the old tradition of Japanese politics and with no experience in economic matters, Obuchi is not regarded by the international community as a man who will take the necessary steps to revive Japan’s economy.

Japan ar t s , cu l t u r e , t hou g h t , an d re l i g i o n

KOFUN PERIOD: Early Kofun period. Confucian scholar Wani arrives from the Korean state of Paekche with eleven volumes of Chinese classic writings. He becomes tutor to the crown prince and becomes the first scribe. Literacy spreads very slowly at the Japanese court. In fifth- and sixth-century Japan literacy is possessed mainly by immigrant families from the Korean peninsula. Invaluable to the bureaucratic state, scribes are essential for keeping accurate records. 538 (or 552): According to tradition, Buddhism is introduced into Japan. By the end of the century it is firmly established as the official religion, politically valuable as a means to increase the authority of the rulers, and it leads to a spread of literacy. Elites vie with each other in constructing temples in the Asuka region and commissioning art works for them. Eating four-legged animals is banned for religious reasons, leading to a 250–400:



decrease in hunting. By the end of the century, Buddhism ends the practice of building Kofun tombs, which it sees as inappropriate. The tombs continue to be built in Kanto and Tohoku regions until the end of the seventh century. 554: In return for Japan’s aid, the Korean kingdom of Paekche sends back specialists in Confucianism, Buddhism, divination, calendars, herbs, and music. Learning is apparently highly valued by Japanese of this era. c. 585: Up to this time, inhabitants of Japan believe that malevolent native spirits (kami) cause calamities. With the arrival of Buddhism, they believe that plagues and disasters result from a failure to worship Buddha. Buddhism does not replace native religions of Japan and cults of sacred places and spirits centered at ancient shrine of Ise. Now known as Shinto (the way of the kami), these rites and shrines persist into the modern era.

Arts, Culture, Thought, and Religion


ASUKA PERIOD: 600–710 604: Formally elevated to state religion, Bud-

646: Tomb construction is restricted for the

dhism is seen by the elite as the embodiment of advanced culture. Courtiers construct large temples where communities of priests perform ceremonies and prayers, study scriptures, and become specialists in fields of architecture, engineering, and medicine. 607: The Buddhist temple of Horyo-ji is finished near present-day Nara. Supported by Shotoku, the monastic complex of forty-five buildings features the world’s oldest authenticated wooden structure and the finest surviving example of Chinese Tang period architecture in its five-story pagoda. In the main hall, bronze statues of Shaka Trinity and the Yakushi Niyorai (Buddha of Healing) are attributed to Tori Busshi, Japan’s first artist to be known by name (because he signed his works) and the era’s foremost sculptor. 612: From Paekche, Korea, Mimashi arrives to open a dance school to teach gigaku (skill music). Performers wearing artistically expressive head-covering masks and elaborate costumes portray stock characters and beings from Buddhist and Hindu tradition in the form of ancient dance-drama. This often starts with a processional shishi-mai, or lion dance, still performed at folk festivals today. Popular until the seventeenth century, it has come to be performed as a mystery play in Buddhist temples. 624: The census counts forty-six Buddhist temples, with 816 monks and 569 nuns.

interim, leading to increased Buddhist temple construction, of which some 483 are completed by 710. In funerary practices, a ban is placed on interring valuable items in graves and practicing ecstatic grieving by self-mutilation. 672: Under Chinese influence, sibling marriages of rulers end. 681: Government issues clothing regulations containing ninety-two articles. Commoners are to wear yellow and slaves black. 693: Toka, a form of group dance performed by members of the Nara court, is introduced from China. Performances are usually held as a part of New Year ceremonies. 694: Empress Jito orders that copies of the Buddhist Golden Light Sutra be sent to provinces, to be read at the start of the first month of the year. 701: The Gagakuryo (Bureau of Court Music) is established on the Chinese model. Gagaku (elegant music), originally from the Chinese Tang dynasty, performed at court is also known as bugaku when accompanying dancers. Gagaku ensembles include flutes, various drums, and string instruments. Costumed bugaku dancers wear face masks of fantastic creatures with bulging eyes; they perform “Tang style,” “Korean style,” and “Native” pieces derived from sacred dances known as kagura. Bugaku is still performed today at shrines and imperial palace grounds by descendants of the Nara court musicians’ guild.

NARA PERIOD: 710–794 712: Kojiki (Record of Ancient Times), writ-

ten in a unique amalgam of Chinese and Japanese syntax on three scrolls, is compiled by Ono Yasumaro, who weaves together from legends and traditions a record of ancient Japanese history, intended to rival that

of China. As the oldest Japanese work, it marks the debut of Japanese literature. 720: The historic thirty-volume chronicle Nihon Shoki or Nihongi (History of Japan), written in literary Chinese, is completed. 733: Fudoki, provincial compendia of infor-



mation about local topography, botany, zoology, origins of place names, customs, myths, literary anecdotes, poems, and products, are completed. Except for Izumo fudoki, most survive only in fragments. 735: Buddhist priest and scholar Gembo (?– 746) and official Kibi no Makibi (695–775) return from study in China. Gembo brings back over five thousand Buddhist sutras; Makibi, after study of Confucianism, ceremonial rituals, and military science, establishes a school for future government officials. A common understanding of Confucian principles facilitates diplomatic and other exchanges throughout East Asia. 736: The Buddhist liturgical chant, Shomyo, is introduced and becomes important in the development of Japanese music. 741: Emperor Shomu mandates a provincial Buddhist temple system with monastery and nunnery for each province, where prayers and readings to protect the realm are to be conducted. In effect, he henceforth commits substantial state resources to the spread of Buddhism. 745: Todaiji temple, the world’s largest wooden building, is built after a smallpox epidemic. Money for construction is raised by the itinerant and venerated holy man Gyoki (668–749), also known as Japan’s first civil engineer. 751: Kaifoso, the first anthology of Chinese verse (120 poems) by Japanese authors, is published. With this, Japan becomes an active participant in Chinese civilization.

752: Shomu emerges from retirement to ded-

icate a fifty-three-foot-tall Great Buddha, the largest bronze statue in world, at Todaiji temple in a splendid ceremony attended by other Asian delegations. Exquisite gifts from the event—Persian cut-glass bowls, musical instruments, and brocades—survive in the Shoso-in imperial repository in Nara. 754: Chinese priest Ganjin (688–763) arrives to teach the precepts of the Buddhist Ritsu sect and to found, in 759, Toshodaiji as a seminary to retrain, in the spirit of late Nara reform, priests influenced by the decadence of the capital. 756: Empress Komyo donates six hundred valuable items from late Emperor Shomu’s court to Todaiji temple. Some one hundred items form the basis of the Nara art collection in Shoso-in treasure house, built in 756. c. 759: The oldest anthology of Japanese poems, Man’yoshu (Collection of Myriad Leaves), is completed. Of 4,516 poems, most are thirty-one-syllable tanka, usually linking nature scenes and human emotions. 772: Fujiwara no Hamanari (711–790) writes Kakyo hyoshiki (Standard Rules for the Classic Songs), the earliest book of poetry criticism. 782: Sangaku, theatrical entertainment including acrobatics and juggling of Chinese origin, loses court patronage, possibly because of the earthiness of some skits. Performers become itinerant players and then associate with Buddhist temples. Sangaku is a distant ancestor of noh drama.

HEIAN PERIOD: 794–1185 804: During the decadence of Nara Bud-

dhism, monks Saicho (767–822) and Kokai (774–835) travel to China to study new forms of Buddhism. 805: After returning from China, Saicho establishes the Tendai sect on Mount Hiei; the temple is renamed Enryakuji after his death. This is the first schism of Japanese Bud-

dhism. In the face of strong opposition, Saicho seeks to start a rigorous twelve-year training program for official teachers of Buddhism. By the twelfth century, Enryakuji is immensely wealthy, with three thousand buildings, vast properties, and an army of warrior-monks. Its position is eventually undermined by new sects.

Arts, Culture, Thought, and Religion


806: After study in China to become a master

985: Monk Genshin (942–1017) completes

of mikkyo (secret teachings), a form of esoteric Buddhism developed by Indian sages, Kokai returns to start the Shingon (True Word, or Mantra) sect. In 819, he begins construction of a monastery on Mount Koya; the monastery becomes a base for teaching Shingon and training fifty monks. Shingon practices include meditation on mandalas, repetition of mantras, and use of ritual hand gestures, or mudras. Today the Shingon sect has some 12 million followers and twelve thousand temples. 815: According to tradition, Emperor Saga is first Japanese ruler to taste tea, brought from China by monks. At first used only medicinally until reintroduced in the twelfth century by Zen monk Eisai, it becomes favored by the upper classes. 823: Kokai is appointed abbot of Toji, the city’s most important temple, by patron Emperor Saga. Considered a cultural hero, Kokai is said to have invented the kana syllabary, the Japanese phonetic script that advances the spread of literacy. He compiles the first Japanese dictionary and is known as calligrapher, poet, and saint who first traverses the famous Shikoku pilgrimage route of eighty-eight temples. 890: The Catalogue of Books at Present in Japan enumerates 1,579 titles and 16,790 volumes in total. A recent fire in the palace library has destroyed numerous others. 905: Kokinsho, the imperial anthology of Japanese waka verse, is completed. Thirty-onesyllable waka poems are an aristocratic genre of the Classical Age. 935: Ki no Tsurayuki writes Tosa nikki (Travel Diary), the first of this genre. The era is remarkable for the rise of literature in the form of nikki (diaries) and monogatari (narrative tales). Nikki later becomes a specialty of women writers, who use Japanese kana phonetic script (or “women’s writing”), whereas men use Chinese. 938: Monk Koya (903–972) begins preaching Amida Buddhism in the Heiankyo streets.

the religious tract Ojo Yoshu and spreads Amidism, or Pure Land Buddhism, among aristocrats. 1002: Lady-in-waiting to Empress Sadako, Sei Shonagon, writes the Pillow Book, a minor masterpiece of witty reminiscences and observations, and an important document of daily court life. c. 1002–1019: Lady Murasaki Shikibu writes the world’s first novel and greatest Japanese classical work, The Tale of Genji, a lengthy and detailed account of life at the Heian court later adapted by noh and kabuki plays. 1022: Dedication of the Hojoji Monastery, constructed by Fujiwara no Michinaga, who has retired to become a Buddhist monk; it is a splendid display of his wealth and power. 1127: Renga or linked-verse poetry—with stanzas composed by two or more poets alternately—first appears in an imperial anthology. 1053: In the finest example of Heian architecture, the island villa of Fujiwara no Michinaga is converted by his son into the magnificent Byodo-in temple. Phoenix Hall houses gilded wooden Amida Buddha, a masterpiece of Jocho, the greatest sculptor of the age. The innovation of Jocho is to create the technique of multiblock construction, allowing mass production. Other achievements of Heian visual arts include the invention of maki-e lacquer and kirikane gold leaf, as well as the development of e-makimono, or painted narrative picture scrolls: masterpieces include the Tale of Genji Scrolls and Heike Nokyo, or Lotus Sutra Scrolls. Under warrior patronage, court culture spreads to the provinces; Hiraizumi in northern Honshu is a notable example of a place where that culture takes hold. 1175: Tendai-trained monk Honen (1133– 1212) begins to preach and establishes the Jodo Shinsho (Pure Land Sect) as a mass movement. Fearing the chaos and suffering of the apocalyptic Buddhist mappo (End of



Law) era, its followers worship Amida Buddha, who promises rebirth in the Western Paradise. Monks Koya, Genshin, and Ryonin (1072–1132) help spread the cult to laymen. 1180–1185: The civil war of Taira and Minamoto and the Battle of Dan no Ura will

inspire a lengthy medieval epic, Heike monogatari (Tales of the Heike), which evolves over the century from chronicles and chants by blind itinerant priests to a song accompanied by the biwa or lute. Possibly written in its earliest version by former courtier Yukinaga, it forms the basis of many noh plays.

KAMAKURA PERIOD: 1185–1333 1156–1180: New types of narrative picture

scrolls emerge as work in lively realistic style is done on Shigisan Engi (Legends of Mount Shigi), which documents details of everyday life and actual people. Also unique is Chojo Giga (Frolicking Animals Scroll) which satirizes society in cartoonlike images of birds and animals. Amida Buddhism inspires yamato-e scrolls that grotesquely depict hell; also depicted are other Realms of Reincarnation and the lives of saints. 1185–1333: In the samurai era the art of swordmaking is supreme, as craftsmen forge combination blades of hard and soft steel with attributes of both hammer and razor. Set into ornate handles, blades are passed down through generations as family treasures. Under Kamakura patronage, in Seto potters begin producing glazed wares based on examples from Southern Song China. 1191: Eisai (1141–1215), founder of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism, returns from four years study in China and starts to teach Zen in Japan. In 1199 he becomes abbot of the new Kamakura Monastery. Eisai plants tea seeds from China on temple grounds, begins the cultivation of tea, and introduces the Buddhist tea ritual. With the advocacy of meditation and selfdiscipline as a path to enlightenment, Zen appeals to the warrior class and becomes a favored religion of the shogunate. As more masters arrive to teach Zen, it spreads to courtiers, samurai, and commoners. In the

late thirteenth century a hierarchy of official Zen Buddhist monasteries is formed: gozan (five mountains) refers to the top-ranked temples. 1195: After destruction in the Gempei War, Todaiji is rebuilt in Nara by Amidist priest Chogen in the Daibutsu (Great Buddha) style. Works for its Great Buddha Hall are produced by the Nara family of gifted sculptors known as the Kei school. Its leaders— Unkei (1151–1223), Kaikei, and Tankei—have Jocho as their ancestor. They produce hundreds of sculptures for temples using his multiblock method. 1200: Buddhists and government join to request suppression of the Pure Land movement. The shogunate orders the expulsion of all sect priests. 1204: Major Buddhist temples unsuccessfully petition the imperial court to ban Honen’s teaching of exclusive nembutsu (invocation of the sacred name of Amida Buddha); they fear that his doctrines undermine their own position. 1205: Shinkokinsho, an important imperial anthology of waka poetry, appears, marking the flowering of waka written by nobility as the imperial court loses authority. Motifs include beauties of nature, yogen (mystery and depth), and sabi (loneliness). Poets such as Fujiwara no Teika are also scholars. Their wagaku (Japanese scholarship, in contrast to Chinese scholarship, or kangaku) focuses on waka-centered classical court literature and on ceremonies and ritual practices at court.

Arts, Culture, Thought, and Religion


1212: Kamo no Chomei completes his mas-

1224: Shinran (1173–1262) completes the first

terpiece Hojoki (An Account of My TenFoot-Square Hut). The work describes how he loses his career and fortune to disasters, takes Buddhist vows, and retires to a contemplative life of mountain solitude to seek rebirth in the Pure Land of Amida. 1219–1222: An early version of Heike monogatari (Tales of the Heike), an account of the Gempei War, appears. An important literary genre in the Middle Ages, war tales of the era include Hogen monogatari (Tales of the Hogen) and Heiji monogatari (Tales of the Heiji). 1220: Gukansho (Notes on Foolish Views), an early interpretative history of Japan, appears, written by the Buddhist priest Jien (1155– 1225) as partial justification for the Fujiwara Regency.

version of Kyogyoshinsho, a collection of writings marking the beginning of the Jodo Shin sect of Pure Land Buddhism. 1227: Eisai’s student Dogen (1200–1253) brings the Soto sect of Zen Buddhism from China; it promotes complete equality of the sexes. 1253: Nichiren (1222–1281) establishes the populist Nichiren sect; he campaigns to make it the official state religion. Twice exiled for extremism, he predicts the Mongol invasions. 1286: Rinzai Zen master Mugaku Sogen designates as his spiritual heir Mugai Nyodai (1223–1298), the first woman Zen priest. She founds and heads Keiaiji temple and Niji gozan network of over fifteen subtemples.

MUROMACHI PERIOD: 1333–1573 c. 1330: Courtier Yoshida Kenko finishes his

masterpiece Tsurezuregusa (Essays in Idleness). His impressionistic observations include nostalgia for the past, criticism of ostentation, advocacy of simplicity, and ideas on aesthetics. Popular literature of the era includes chronicles of wars among land-holding clans highlighting heroism, treachery, murder, rape, and looting. Japanese of all classes are entertained by traditional oral narrative literature of the etoki hoshi (picture-explaining priests) and Kumano bikuni (nuns of Kumano), who use scroll paintings to tell of heroes and of themes of universal conflict. 1330s–1340s: In interior design, the shoin (writing hall) style emerges—features tatami (woven rush floor mats), shoji (wood-latticed paper windows), fusuma (sliding paper screens), shoin (built-in desks), split-level shelves, raised floor alcoves, and decorative platforms in a study that evolves into a reception chamber. This is the basis of mod-

ern Japanese residential design in traditional style. 1338: Kyoto replaces Kamakura as the center of Zen Buddhism. Ashikaga favor the Rinzai sect, whose gozan (Five Monasteries) monks serve as shogunal spiritual advisors, drafters of documents, diplomats, and tutors. Also adept at economic management, they function as moneylenders and provide revenue to the shogunate in the form of taxation, compulsory “gifts,” and the purchase of licenses of appointment to abbot and other positions. 1339: The composition of Jinno shotoki (Chronicle of the Direct Descent of Gods and Sovereigns) by the courtier and imperial loyalist Kitabatake Chikafusa marks the Shinto revival and new research into the history of the imperial line. In Kyoto, Muso Soseki designs Saiho-ji, Japan’s first dry garden, as an aid to meditation. A priest, he is shogun Takauji’s spiritual advisor, as well as a pioneer of Zen garden



design using rocks and sand to suggest flowing water. c. 1350: In Nara’s Kasuga shrine, Sarugaku no Noh is performed by priest Kan’ami as a form of kagura or sacred dance. He and his son Zeami are said to have invented noh drama, a combination of poetic chant, mime, and slow posture dance. Zeami writes ninety plays and theorizes in twenty-one treatises on the Zen principle of “non-action” as applied to a stylized symbolic acting style. Elaborately costumed mystery plays on a bare stage treat themes of supernatural or madness, explored not by plot but by intensification of a single emotion to climax. Day-long noh performances are interrupted with comic relief interludes of kyogen, which use satire and slapstick to poke fun at cowardly warriors, lecherous priests, shiftless servants, blind men, conniving daimyo, and the like. 1356: Nijo Yoshimoto and Gusai begin the compilation of the first imperially sponsored renga poetry collection, Tsukubasho. The linked-verse renga fad spreads from court to all levels of society. 1378: Ashikaga Yoshimitsu builds the Hanano-Gosho (Palace of Flowers) with magnificent gardens in Kyoto’s Muromachi district north of (and therefore “above”) the imperial palace. As a generous patron of arts, Yoshimitsu hosts large banquets, linkedverse galas, flower viewings, and dramatic performances. 1397: Yoshimitsu begins the construction in Kyoto of the Kinkakuji, or Golden Pavilion, the ultimate in luxury and ostentation, surrounded by a large pond and set in the deer park of Kitayama estate. (Destroyed by fire in 1952, it is restored in a replica of the original.) 1434: The monks of the powerful Buddhist complex, Enryakuji, complain of actions by shogunal subordinates contrary to the interests of the monastery; this provokes a violent

campaign ordered by Ashikaga Yoshinori, ending in a mass suicide of monks. 1471: Monk Rennyo begins to preach in Echizen province; the Jodo Shin sect spreads through northwestern Honshu. Late 1400s: Shoko develops the wachiba tea ceremony, further perfected by Takeno Joo and Sen Rikyu. Schools are founded to teach the arts of flower arranging (ikebana) and of incense burning. Goto invents the metal-ornamenting craft of damascening, used on sword hilts and guards. In an era of nostalgia, former imperial regent Ichijo Kanera is the leading scholar of wakagu (classical court literature and ceremony). The greatest fear of scholars during the Onin War is that books and manuscripts will be destroyed. 1477–1492: In the Higashiyama epoch, the arts of painting, architecture, and drama are generously supported by retired shogun Yoshimasa, who convokes a coterie of scholars, priests, and artists led by connoisseurs Noami, Geiami, and Soami. In 1483 Yoshimasa builds the Ginkakuji or Silver Pavilion retreat, designed in a subtle restrained style, with the first tea-ceremony room in Japan. 1495: The greatest Muromachi artist, Sessho Toyo, produces the most important work, Haboku sansuizu (Splashed Ink Landscape), executed in the Zen-influenced suiboku (water and ink) impressionistic brush-stroke manner. In the fifteenth century painting moves out of temples and becomes secular. 1505: In Kyoto, the shogunate bans bon odori, a simple circular dance of men and women wearing flower or tableau headdresses; it becomes popular in Momoyama era. 1536: A courtier completes the Sanetaka ko ki (The Record of Lord Sanetaka), a diary detailing life in Kyoto during fifty years of violence, expressing a yearning for classical culture and the values of the ancient court. 1544: In Kyoto, the shogunate unsuccessfully bans furyo, a lively fancy-dress dance with

Arts, Culture, Thought, and Religion

“varied steps and farcical postures.” It becomes a fad, and in 1571 the imperial prince and shogun attend a competition of townsman groups. August 15, 1549: Francis Xavier lands in Kagoshima with two other Jesuits and establishes Japan’s first mission there, beginning the “Christian Century.” Guided to Japan by the fugitive Anjiro, he is welcomed by daimyo (feudal lord) Ouchi and Otomo Sorin,


who hope that trade will follow. Xavier preaches against prevalent idolatry, infanticide, and sodomy. En route to India, he dies on an island off China in 1552. 1570: In a campaign against the political and military power of Buddhist sects, Nobunaga begins a ten-year war against the True Pure Land sect. In 1571 he demolishes the Tendai sect temple Enryakuji, massacring thousands of monks.

M O M O YA M A P E R I O D : 1 5 7 3 – 1 6 1 5 1576: Nobunaga begins the construction of a

August 6, 1585: Appointed kanpaku (imperial

magnificent castle at Azuchi, which in 1579 becomes his official residence. He commissions the era’s greatest painter, Kano Eitoku (1543–1590), to decorate it with splendid gold screens. In 1582, it is burned down after Nobunaga’s death. 1579: After the Azuchi Disputation between priests of True Pure Land and Nichiren sects, Nobunaga declares the Nichirenists to be the losers and orders three leaders executed. The supervisor of Jesuit missions in Asia, Alessandro Valignano, arrives in Japan. In 1581 he receives from Nobunaga a gift of the Kano Eitoku scroll painting of Azuchi. Nobunaga does not convert, but many fashionable Japanese do; some minor features of the tea ceremony are said to be adaptations of Catholic sacrament. 1582: Three Christian daimyo send four Japanese Christian envoys to Rome’s papal court; they voyage across the Pacific, cross Mexico, sail on to Spain and Italy, and return in 1590. By now, Valignano reports two hundred churches and 150,000 converts, achieved by seventy-five Jesuit priests in Japan. 1583: Hideyoshi begins the construction of Osaka castle, to be decorated by Kano Eitoku and his atelier. The Yamato tearoom is first used, with Sen Rikyu supervising.

regent), Hideyoshi celebrates with a noh performance at the imperial palace, initiating an era of pageantry and ceremony. March 1586: Hideyoshi displays a portable golden tearoom to the emperor at his palace. July 1587: Alarmed by the Jesuit influence on Christian daimyo, Hideyoshi issues an edict forbidding forced conversion and denouncing Christianity as subversive; the next day he orders the expulsion of Jesuit missionaries. He removes Nagasaki from Jesuit control and places it under his own rule. These edicts are not enforced, but Jesuits follow his rules, especially against preaching in public. November 1587: At Kitano shrine, Hideyoshi holds an elaborate ten-day outdoor tea ceremony to which all classes of society are invited; other events here include art exhibits, concerts, plays, and dance performances. Hideyoshi is a master of using ostentatious display to achieve his goals. He has Kano Eitoku and his atelier decorate Juraku Palace, where the emperor visits him in 1588, validating his ascension to elite status. 1588: Hideyoshi issues further anti-Christian edicts, provoked by damage to Buddhist shrines by converts and by Portuguese traders who buy and export Japanese slaves. Work begins on Kyoto’s Great Buddha Hall, ordered by Hideyoshi; a furyo performance danced by townsmen highlights the



ceremony. The Great Buddha statue, larger than one in Nara’s Todaiji, is twice damaged by earthquakes. 1589: Yamanoue Soji ki, a work on the wabicha (poverty tea) ceremony, is completed. Master potter Chojiro uses clay from near Hideyoshi’s castle to make rough-style tea bowls decorated with the character raku (enjoyment). In Kyoto, Hideyoshi orders brothels to be located in one licensed quarter, Nijo Yanagimachi. 1591: A Hideyoshi edict bans change of social status from samurai to farmer or merchant, or from farmer to merchant. This initiates the legal codification of social-class hierarchy. 1592: In Kyushu, Nagoya castle, Hideyoshi’s headquarters for Korean invasion, is decorated by Kano Mitsunobu and Hasegawa Tohaku’s atelier. 1593: The kouta (short song) anthology Ryotatsu kouta sho is issued in the first of various versions. Hideyoshi begins to act in noh performances before noble audiences, using noh as a propaganda medium. He also commissions heroic spectacles about his own life and military victories. 1594: Hideyoshi builds Fushimi castle at Momoyama, commissioning Kano Mitsunobu and Kano Sanraku to decorate it. Accompanied by a large retinue, Hideyoshi journeys on a pilgrimage to Yoshino to view cherry blossoms. The event is celebrated with a performance of Omura Yoko’s Yoshino mode, which glorifies Hideyoshi. February 5, 1597: In the first violent persecution of Christians, a Hideyoshi-ordered crucifixion of twenty-six Japanese converts and foreign missionaries takes place at Nagasaki. 1598: Following the second Korean invasion, generals bring back Korean craftsmen who establish the Satsuma ware, Arita ware, and Hagi ware pottery traditions in Japan.

1599: To commemorate the deified Hide-

yoshi at Hokoku Jinja shrine, Kano Shosho paints the panels of Thirty-six Poets. His son Hideyori is honored with the dedication of one hundred ryotatsu songs. 1600: English sailor William Adams (1564– 1620) arrives in a damaged Dutch ship. Tokugawa Ieyasu first imprisons him, then takes him on as tutor in mathematics, cartography, and gunnery. Honored with elevation to samurai rank, Adams acquires a substantial estate, takes a Japanese wife, and negotiates the opening of trade with the Dutch (1611) and English (1613). 1603: Having set up a movable-type printing press, Jesuits publish a Japanese-Portuguese dictionary; the next year, Joa˜o Rodrigues issues his Arte da Lingoa de Iapam, an introduction to the Japanese language. They issue translations of the Bible and of the books Imitation of Christ, A Guide for Sinners, and Aesop’s Fables. The Portuguese also inspire fashions among the Japanese, some of whom wear capes, pantaloons, high ruff collars and rosary and crucifix accessories and play card games (karuta). They, too, are the source of pan (Portuguese bread) and tempura (fish or vegetables deep-fried in batter, from the Portuguese tempero). Portuguese and other westerners are depicted in Japanese namban art of the era. This is the traditional date of the beginning of kabuki (“outlandish”), as female dancer Okuni mimes the male role of a rake visiting a brothel. In bawdy skits by women’s troupes and by prostitutes, men (onnagata) often play female roles. Women’s groups perform at the imperial court and tour the provinces. In 1617, the first kabuki theater is established in Kyoto, and the genre later becomes the sole domain of male actors. 1604: Confucian scholar Hayashi Razan enters the service of Ieyasu and establishes a school in Edo. February 1, 1614: Prohibiting Christianity

Arts, Culture, Thought, and Religion

throughout Japan, Ieyasu calls for the expulsion of 148 missionaries, deporting all (except some forty who go into hiding), along with Christian daimyo who refuse to recant.


Thus begins persecution in earnest. Soon Nagasaki-area Christians, including children, are put to death and tortured to make them recant.

EDO PERIOD: 1615–1868 1615: Tokugawa Ieyasu gives land at Takaga-

mine to Hon’ami Koetsu (1558–1637), a versatile artist of the era—calligrapher, potter, designer of decorative paper (shikishi) and pictorial lacquerware, and connoisseur. There he founds an art colony of Lotus Conferderation members. Under courtier patronage, he publishes sagabon, exquisite editions of classic Japanese literature, as well as wakagon, scrolls of court poetry, in collaboration with Tawaraya Sotatsu, the era’s great painter of yamato-e (traditional Japanese) style gold screens depicting court life, and of Chinese-style brush paintings. Koetsu and Sotatsu establish the traditions of decorative style to be known as the Rimpa School. Other important schools of the era are Kano (official painters academy) and Tosa (painters to the imperial court). 1617: In Edo is established a gated and officially controlled red light district occupied by some three thousand licensed prostitutes in about two hundred houses. Similar districts are created in other cities. 1619: Persecution continues as Kyoto Christians are executed. In 1622 fifty-five Nagasaki Christians are executed; the most severe anti-Christian laws are passed in 1638. In 1665 the shogunate orders daimyo to carry out a yearly inquisition; it also issues regulations controlling temples and priests. By 1641, all Japanese wives and mixedblood children of foreigners are deported; all Japanese living abroad are forbidden to return. 1629: Women are banned from kabuki, which is seen as a front for prostitution. In 1652, young men’s kabuki is banned in Edo

for similar reasons; it eventually becomes legitimate theater. 1636: At Nikko, shogun Iemitsu rebuilds Ieyasu’s sumptuous mausoleum, where he is worshipped as a Shinto deity. Many important craftsmen work on the project. 1650s: In Edo, numbers of ronin (masterless samurai) increase and disorderly gangs disrupt the public. 1656: Leading Edo scholar Yamaga Soko (1622–1685) issues an essential work on Bushido (way of the warrior) and explores the philosophical basis of the samurai ethic of duty and honor. In Edo, illegal bathhouses are popular. In 1791 the shogunate bans communal bathing by men and women in Edo public bathhouses. 1665: Ukiyo monogatari (Tale of the Floating World) by Asai Ryoi appears. The “floating world” of courtesans and actors becomes a popular subject for writers and artists of the era. 1666: Publication of the twenty-volume lexicon Kimmo zui (Illustrations and Definitions to Train the Untutored). 1682: The most famous novelist of the era, Ihara Saikaku (1642–1693), publishes Koshoku ichidai otoko (Life of an Amorous Man), a form of fiction known as gesaku (stories written for amusement). By now, some 40 percent of commoners are literate. 1683: The shogunate issues a series of sumptuary laws banning overly expensive clothing, as well as regulating food, house size, and scale of entertainments. According to Confucian principles, consumption is to be proportional to status. 1688–1704: Lively urban culture of the Gen-



roku period flourishes with novels of Saikaku, plays of Chikamatsu, poems of Basho, and ukiyo prints. Commercial wealth encourages an explosion of the minor arts— ceramics, lacquerware, textiles, netsuke (sash toggles), and inro (seal baskets); it allows leisure activities in pleasure quarters, theaters, public baths, taverns, and tea houses. Despite the religious context, commoners at times treat pilgrimages as holiday occasions. 1689: Japan’s most famous poet, Matsuo Basho (1644–1694), sets out on a trip through northern Honshu, recording the journey in a travel diary, which includes what is regarded as the first perfected haiku—seventeen-syllable poems depicting vignettes from nature and their effect on the poet. 1690: In Nagasaki, German doctor Engelbert Kaempfer starts work at a Dutch trading post; he writes a two-volume History of Japan, the century’s most important European book about Japan. 1703: The debut of Chikamatsu Monzaemon’s (1653–1724) bunraku drama Sonezaki shinjo (Love Suicides at Sonezaki). Regarded as Japan’s leading playwright, he writes some one hundred bunraku plays for two-thirds life-size puppets operated by three masked puppeteers, as well as thirty kabuki plays. Numerous double love-suicides among the public follow, leading to a 1723 government ban on their portrayal in literature or drama. April–May 1705: Pilgrimages to Ise draw 3.62 million. Pilgrims flock to this leading Shinto shrine throughout the Edo era. c. 1718: The influential Confucian scholar and advisor to two shoguns Ogyo Sorai (1666–1728) publishes Rongocho (Commentaries on the Analects). Among other leading Confucian scholars of the era is Arai Hakuseki (1657–1725). 1722: Government bans erotic books, illustrated by shunga (spring pictures); the ban results in stronger demand for such works, mostly by artist Hishikawa Moronobu (1618–

1694), the first master of the ukiyo-e woodblock print. 1728: Kada no Azumamaro petitions the shogunate to found a school of “national learning,” as scholars begin to reconsider ancient Japanese Shinto poetry and history in a search for canonical literature. Motoori Norinaga (1730–1801) will cap the kokugaku or national learning movement with an influential forty-four-volume study of Kojiki, the earliest Japanese classic. 1745: A Dutch-Japanese dictionary is issued by Aoki Konyo. In 1796, Inamura Sampaku and others issue the Dutch-Japanese dictionary Haruma wage. 1765: Among masters of the woodblock print, Harunobu (1724–1770) pioneers the multicolored nishiki-e (brocade picture) some seventy years before chromolithography; Torii Kiyonobu (1752–1815) will pioneer ukiyo-e landscapes. Utamaro (1754–1806) depicts female subjects and invents the “head and shoulders” portrait; he becomes a leading ukiyo-e artist. Like most artists of the era, both Harunobu and Utamaro are prolific producers of shunga. In reforms of 1790s and 1840s, artists of erotic and satirical prints are censored and jailed. Other schools of the era include Bunjin or literati-style artists who reject academic style in favor of landscapes in the Chinese tradition. Second-generation practitioners include Ike no Taiga (1723–1776) and Uragami Gyokudo (1745–1820). 1776: Kokugaku scholar and writer Ueda Akinari (1734–1809) publishes Ugetsu monogatari (Tales of Moonlight and Rain), nine supernatural tales influenced by classical literature. 1780: Artist Shiba Kokan (1747?–1818) introduces the first western-style oil paintings; in 1783, he produces the first copperplate etchings in Japan. 1808: Shogunate orders six interpreters to study French in Nagasaki, six to study English, and all to study Russian. 1811: Government establishes the Transla-

Arts, Culture, Thought, and Religion

tion Office, recruits linguists to translate books from Dutch and other European languages. These works cast new light on Western international practices and lead Translation Office head Takahashi Kageyasu (1785–1829) to support the expulsion of foreign ships. 1814: A number of messianic sects based on sectarian Shinto begin to emerge: in 1814, the Kurozumikyo sect; in 1838, the Tenrikyo sect; in 1859, the Konkokyo sect. c. 1831: Fugaku sanjorokkei (Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji), a series of woodcut prints by Katsushika Hosukai (1760–1849) begins to appear; the set includes Great Wave at Kanagawa. The second great master of the century is Ando Hiroshige (1797–1858), who creates more than one thousand views of Edo; his best-known work is Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido, depicting the route between Edo and Kyoto. Large numbers of their woodcuts are exported to the West in the 1860s, greatly influencing the French Impressionists. 1832: Publication begins of the romantic novel Shunshoku umegoyomi (Spring Love:


A Plum-Blossom Almanac) by Tamenaga Shunsui; with new social and psychological realism, it influences the development of the modern Japanese novel. 1840: The shogun orders the Dutch to inform him about the Opium War in China; in 1850 he sets a penalty for the unauthorized publication of news about that war. In 1843, he calls for the translation of the Dutch constitution. 1842: Scholar and writer Takizawa Bakin (1767–1848) completes his most famous work, Nanso Satomi hakkenden (Satomi and the Eight Dogs). 1861: Publication begins of Japan’s first modern newspaper, Nagasaki Shipping List & Advertiser (in English). In 1862 comes the first regular Japanese-language newspaper Kampan Batabiya Shimbun (translated from Dutch). 1867: Publication of the first Japanese-English dictionary by the American missionary and physician James Hepburn, who uses a system of romanization developed by a collaborative group of Japanese and foreigners.

MEIJI PERIOD: 1868–1912 March 1868: As government decrees the sep-

aration of Shinto and Buddhism, Buddhist priests are to give up vows and leave Shinto shrines to return to laity. In 1870 an imperial edict makes Shinto the state religion. 1869: In Tokyo, to memorialize fallen warriors, the Shokonsha shrine is founded. Renamed Yasukuni in 1876, it will honor all war dead since 1853. 1870: Fukuzawa Yukichi (1835–1901), a leading Meiji progressive and intellectual, completes the ten-volume Seiyo Jijo (Conditions in the West). Officially commoners are allowed to take surnames, intermarry with other classes, and wear clothes once exclusive to samurai. September 1871: In a policy to equalize classes, an edict allows samurai to cut off

their topknots, abandon their swords, and enter business and farming. Nobility may wed commoners. The terms eta and hinin, formerly used to designate outcast groups, are banned. Publication begins of Yokohama mainchi shimbun, the first daily newspaper in Japanese; it becomes an organ of the Freedom and People’s Rights Movement. 1872: The first modern school system is mandated by the Education Order of 1872; a move to adopt a more “flexible” system is reinforced by the Education Order of 1879. 1873: The edict banning Christianity is abolished, but freedom of religion is not specifically granted. The first baseball game in Japan is played in Tokyo, introduced by the American Hor-



ace Wilson. The first Japanese team is organized around 1880. 1874–1876: To speed modernization, government begins to hire foreign employees, including British, Germans, French, and Americans on a temporary basis to train Japanese in such areas as Western agriculture, engineering, foreign affairs, medicine, and military science. This brings to Japan such notables as Basil Hall Chamberlain, Ernest Fenollosa, and William Smith Clark. February 1, 1874: The Meirokusha Society is founded to explore Western culture. Public lectures and a journal serve a membership of leading Japanese educators and bureaucrats. March 1876: An edict bans the wearing of swords except on ceremonial occasions. 1877: Tokyo University is established by the unification of two older institutions. 1882: The poetry anthology Shintaishi sho (Collection of New-Style Poetry) is published, the first to include translations of Western poems. 1883: In Tokyo, Rokumeikan reception hall for Western-style social and entertainment events is completed. In 1890 it is transformed into Peers Hall. July 7, 1884: The Peerage Act creates 508 new nobles, adds an elite of military and outstanding commoners. At its 1944 peak the peerage has 1,016 families; it is abolished by the 1947 constitution. 1886: Tsubouchi Shoyo (1859–1935) promotes realism, leads the modernization of Japanese literature with Shosetsu shinzui (Essence of the Novel). 1889: Anglican missionary John Batchelor publishes his Ainu-English-Japanese Dictionary. Japan’s first modern novel appears with Futabatei Shimei’s publication of Ukigumo (Drifting Clouds), a study of an alienated hero. October 30, 1890: The Imperial Rescript on Education is issued; a 315-word text, read aloud on special occasions, promotes Con-

fucian virtues to unite benevolent ruler and loyal subjects. It serves as a means of political indoctrination. 1892: Prophetess Deguchi Nao (1837–1918) starts Omoto, a messianic religious movement urging world peace and universal brotherhood. 1893: After studying art in Paris, Kuroda Seiki (1866–1924) returns to bring Impressionism to Japan. 1899: In Philadelphia, educator and cultural interpreter Nitobe Inazo (1862–1933) issues Bushido: The Soul of Japan. The first Japanese film premieres in Tokyo. Silent films are interpreted by benshi, live performers who sit by the side of the screen to read subtitles aloud; they provide full dialogue, exposition, and general commentary. Coming from traditional storytelling tradition, these “poets of darkness” usually perform to musical accompaniment. 1900: Poet Yosano Tekkan (1873–1935) starts the literary journal Myojo (Bright Star). Innovative and sophisticated, it becomes a sumptuous art journal. The first Japanese woman to study abroad, Tsuda Umeko (1864–1929) founds the Tokyo Women’s English School, now Tsuda College. 1901: Feminist writer and educator Yosano Akiko (1878–1942) issues a volume of tanka verse, Midaregami (Tangled Hair), four hundred poems of passion and sensuality. December 1902: In the Textbook Scandal, publishers bribe officials to accept their books for use in schools. 1903: Fujin no tomo (Woman’s Friend), the first women’s magazine, begins publication as Katei no tomo (Friend of the Household). November 1904: The socialist newspaper Heimin shimbun, founded in 1903, publishes the first Japanese translation of the Communist Manifesto; the government suspends publication. 1904: Natsume Soseki (1867–1916) completes his satirical novel Wagahai wa neko de aru (I Am a Cat).

Arts, Culture, Thought, and Religion

British diplomat George Sansom (1883– 1965) arrives. He becomes a major western interpreter of Japanese culture with the three-volume History of Japan (1958–1963). October 11, 1906: A government official protests the San Francisco segregation of Japanese schoolchildren. President Theodore Roosevelt persuades the Board of Education to rescind the order. 1906: Writer Shimazaki Toson publishes Hakai (Broken Commandment), a realist masterpiece about a young man from an oppressed social class. In the United States, Okakura Kakuzo (1862–1913) publishes the Book of Tea for a circle of Boston aesthetes; he later becomes Asian art curator at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. 1909: In a goodwill gift, Tokyo presents more than two thousand flowering cherry trees in eleven varieties to Washington, D.C.


The Englishman Bernard Leach arrives to study Japanese pottery; his 1940 Potter’s Book reveals Japanese glaze and kiln techniques to Western artisans. 1910: Major poet Ishikawa Takuboku (1886– 1912) publishes Ichiaku no suna (Handful of Sand), a collection of 551 tanka poems. Tono monogatari (Legends of Tono), a study of Honshu village life, is published by Yanagita Kunio (1875–1962), who develops the discipline of Japanese folklore. 1911: Initiating a feminist movement, Seitosha (Bluestocking Society) is founded as an association of “new women,” including teachers, nurses, artists, and office workers. Leading philosopher Nishida Kitaro (1870– 1945) issues the book Zen no kenkyo (Study of Good), seeking to merge Western methodology and Buddhist tradition.

TAISHO PERIOD: 1912–1926 c. 1916: The first animated films are pro-

duced in Japan. In the 1920s, Ofuji Noburo (1900–1961) develops cut-out silhouette animation; he is the first Japanese animator to gain international fame. 1919: Director Kaeriyama Norimasa (1893– 1964) produces Sei no Kagayaki (Glow of Life). The cinema pioneer is the first to use women actors and to film on location, as well as to experiment with editing techniques and complex stories. January 1920: In the Morito Incident, Tokyo University professor Morito Tatsuo is imprisoned after writing a scholarly article on Kropotkin’s anarchist theories. His long trial

raises the issue of academic freedom and free speech versus the government’s need to suppress dangerous ideologies. 1921: Master of the “personal novel” Shiga Naoya (1883–1971) starts the serialization of his masterpiece An’ya koro (A Dark Night’s Passing). 1926: Art historian Yanagi Muneyoshi (1889– 1961) coins the term mingei (folk craft); he starts a movement for the study and creation of traditional decorative arts, with appreciation of regional and ethnic qualities of works in wood, bamboo, metal, paper, calligraphy, painting, and sculpture. In 1936, he helps to found the Japan Folk Craft Museum.

E A R LY S H O WA P E R I O D : 1 9 2 6 – 1 9 4 5 1927: Suzuki Daisetzu (1870–1966) begins

1931: Director Gosho Heinosuke (1902-1981)

publication of Essays in Zen Buddhism and helps to spread Zen worldwide.

produces Japan’s first successful sound film,



Madamu to nyobo (My Neighbor’s Wife and Mine). 1932: Marxist scholars begin to issue a sevenvolume work on the development of Japanese capitalism. 1935: Important literary awards, the Akutagawa Prize to encourage new talent and the Naoki Prize for mature writers, are established. 1937: Ceramist Ishiguro Munemaro (1893–

1968) wins top prize at the Paris international exposition. Novelist Nagai Kafo completes his masterpiece Bokuto kidan (A Strange Tale from East of the River). 1938: Ishikawa Tatsuzo’s (1905–1985) novella Ikite iru heitai (Living Soldiers), treating the conduct of Japanese troops in Nanjing, is banned in the first test case of wartime media censorship.

L AT E S H O WA P E R I O D : 1 9 4 5 – 1 9 8 9 January 24, 1946: Government is ordered to

ban the sale of girls by Japanese families into prostitution. In April 1958 an antiprostitution law closes brothels employing some 100,000 women. Meanwhile, the geisha profession of traditional female entertainers decreases from eighty thousand in the 1920s to some ten thousand in the late 1980s. April 23–26, 1948: Some 9,500 Koreans invade government offices in Osaka and Kobe over the issue of control of e´migre´ schools. In March 1950, South Korea protests the required registration of 600,000 Koreans living in Japan. September 10, 1951: Rashomon by Kurosawa Akira (1910–1998) wins grand prize at the Venice film festival and opens Western theaters to Japanese films. Kurosawa will receive a 1990 lifetime achievement Oscar; actor Mifune Toshiro (1920–1997) will become an international star. 1952: Sculptor-designer Isamu Noguchi (1904–1988) completes Hiroshima Peace Park bridge; he will commute between New York and Japan, eventually establishing a studio on Shikoku. 1953: Film director Ozu Yasujiro (1903–1963) completes his masterpiece Tokyo monogatari (Tokyo Story). Director Mizoguchi Kenji (1898–1956) completes Ugetsu monogatari (Ugetsu Story). 1954: Kinugasa Teinosuke’s (1896–1982) film Jigokumon (Gate of Hell) is the first success-

ful Japanese color film; it wins Cannes Film Festival grand prize and a 1955 Oscar. Director Tanaka Tomoyuki (1910–1997) completes the first of twenty-three Godzilla films about a lizard affected by radiation. February 15, 1955: As a result of the 1950 Law for Protection of Cultural Assets, government designates the first Living National Treasures (men and women in traditional crafts and performing arts). May 9–11, 1956: Mountaineer Aritsune Maki (1894–1989) leads a Japanese party in an ascent of the Himalayan peak Manaslu, the world’s third highest unclimbed peak. April 10, 1959: Crown Prince Akihito is the first of the imperial line to wed a commoner, Shoda Michiko. 1958: Seiji Ozawa (1935– ) wins first prize at a French international conductors’ competition; he goes on to conduct leading U.S. orchestras, becoming the chief conductor and music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1973. 1962: Avant-garde writer Abe Kobo (1924– 1993) publishes Suna no onna (Woman in the Dunes). October 10–24, 1964: Tokyo hosts the first Asian Olympic Games; judo, in which Japanese excel, premieres. The Olympic Games (and, later, Expo ‘70) showcase the work of leading graphic artists Kamekura Yosaku and Nagaoka Shosei; the 1960s is the golden age of Japanese poster design. In 1970, Yokoo Tadanori has a solo

Arts, Culture, Thought, and Religion

show at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. 1966: UPI news photographer Sawada Kyoichi wins a Pulitzer Prize. 1967: Composer Takemitsu Toru (1930–1996) completes November Steps 1 for biwa, shakuhachi, and orchestra, commissioned by the New York Philharmonic for its 125th anniversary. April 2, 1968–August 1969: Most of 377 universities undergo violent protests, strikes, and boycotts by students unhappy with the educational system. A promise of reform ends the upheaval. 1968: Kawabata Yasunari (1899–1972) wins Japan’s first Nobel Prize for literature. March 15, 1970: Expo ’70 opens in Osaka; it is the first world’s fair in an Asian city. November 25, 1970: Writer and right-wing militarist Mishima Yukio (1925–1970) commits suicide. 1970: Japan enters the world of high fashion as Takada Kenzo (1939– ) opens a Paris at-


elier. Leading designers who emerge in the 1960s and 1970s include Mori Hanae (1926– ), Yamamoto Kansai (1944– ), Miyake Issei (1938– ), Yamamoto Yoji (1943– ), and Kawakubo Rei (1942– ). January 24, 1972: In Guam, hunters find Yokoi Shoichi (1915–1997), a World War II soldier who hid in the jungle for twenty-seven years rather than suffer the shame of surrender. Welcomed home as a hero, he goes on to marry and teach thrift and survival skills. Other such soldiers are found in following years. February 3–13, 1972: Sapporo hosts the Winter Olympic Games, the first in Asia. 1986: Architect Isozaki Arata (1931– ) completes the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. March 18, 1987: The Pritzker Prize, architecture’s most prestigious award, goes to Tange Kenzo (1913– ). 1987: Okamoto Ayako (1951– ) is the top earner on the U.S. women’s golf tour; she wins the player of the year award.

HEISEI PERIOD: 1989–1998 1989: Ito Midori is the women’s figure-skating

world champion; she wins a silver medal in the 1992 Winter Olympics. May 15 and 17, 1990: At art auctions in New York, a Japanese art dealer purchases two paintings for the highest prices ever paid for any paintings; it is then revealed that he has bought them for Ryoei Saito, president of a Japanese paper manufacturing company. The top price is $82.5 million for Van Gogh’s Portrait of Dr. Gachet, and the second highest is $78.1 million for Renoir’s Au Moulin de la Galette. July 12, 1991: Hitoshi Igarashi, the Japanese translator of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, is stabbed to death, presumably by someone responding to the Ayatollah Khomeini’s call for Rushdie’s death because of the allegedly blasphemous nature of the novel. 1992: Ando Tadao (1941– ) is the first recipient

of the new Carlsberg Architectural Prize, sponsored by the Carlsberg Breweries of Copenhagen. 1993: Maki Fumihiko (1928– ) receives the Pritzker Prize for architecture. March 23–26, 1994: In Chiba, the world figure-skating championships award top women’s place to Sato Yuka. 1994: The Nobel Prize for literature goes to Kenzaburo Oe (1935– ). 1995: Ando Tadao (1941– ) receives the Pritzker Prize for architecture. May 8, 1997: The Diet passes legislation that protects and promotes the culture and traditions of the Ainu ethnic minority of northern Japan. The government, however, refuses to designate the Ainu as an aboriginal people, as most anthropologists believe them to be. May 29, 1997: The New York Yankees sign pitcher Irabu Hideki to a four-year, $12.8



million baseball contract. Other Japanese players in the United States include Hasegawa Shigetoshi, Kashiwada Takashi, and Nomo Hideo.

May 2, 1998: Hideto Matsumoto, a thirty-

three-year-old rock star, hangs himself. In the following days, three of his teenage fans commit suicide.

Japan s c i en c e -t e chnol ogy, e c ono m i cs , an d e v e ryd ay l i f e

KOFUN PERIOD: 250–600: Agricultural techniques and tools

evolve, with large-scale canal building and the subdivision of rice paddies, as well as the adoption of a step plow, the use of iron blades for hoes and reaping knives, and the use of horse-drawn cultivating equipment. Large manufacturing sites arise for salt production, stone beads, and ceramics, including the characteristic gray sue ware. 250–400: Early Kofun period. The rice basket of Japan centers on the Nara region, which grows most of the rice for the palace. Barley, millet, and wheat also are grown, probably using slash-and-burn methods. Special re-



gional foods, such as trout and mushrooms, are presented as tribute to rulers. 400–500: Middle Kofun period. A specialized warrior elite emerges, as shown by iron armor, weapons, and horse gear. Numbers of craftsmen immigrate from the Korean state of Paekche. They make such luxury goods as gold jewelry, ornaments, ceramics, brocade and patterned cloth, and gilt bronze horse trappings. Large-scale canals are built to improve the irrigation of fields. Stone coffins and hollow clay figurines known as haniwa are made for Kofun tombs.

ASUKA PERIOD: 600–710 604: The Chinese calendar is adopted and

remains in effect to c. 690. 646: The Taika Reform results in large-scale

land surveys, the institution of a grid (jori) system of one-hectare square field sections, and reallocation of fields to peasants. c. 660: The Mizuochi water clock, based on a Chinese device, is erected as a two-story

building in Nara Prefecture. The bell and drum are sounded to mark every thirty minutes. 683: Government orders the use of coins to facilitate financial exchanges and to stimulate the economy. The burgeoning bureaucracy requires the documentation of all transactions in the form of inscriptions on



wooden tablets, or mokkan, later excavated in great numbers from the Fujiwara capital site. 702: Taiho statutes regulate inheritance practices: eldest sons are to inherit father’s property, including chattel slaves, and one-half of the rest of the estate, with the remainder divided among brothers. 702: Standardization of weights and measures.

708: The first Japanese silver and copper

coins, wado kaihin, are minted, following the style of Chinese Tang coins of 621. (Copper is discovered in western Japan in 707.) The minting of silver coins is halted in 709. Despite government efforts to impose the use of coins, the main media of exchange are rice, cloth, and barter. In 711, one copper coin, or mon, is valued at six sho (one sho equals about .72 liter) of rice.

NARA PERIOD: 710–794 723: Government allows private ownership of

735–737: A great smallpox epidemic kills 30–

reclaimed lands, and farmers may leave land to heirs. Previously all rice land was in the public domain (because it used state-financed irrigation) and was reallocated every six years, according to the Handen shoju system. This is meant to alleviate a growing shortfall in rice production, affecting both the nutrition of the lower classes and the tax income of the state. 730: A document from Awa province shows 412 out of 414 households to be living in poverty. In Echizen province, 996 of 1,019 households are in the same condition. Large numbers of peasants run away to avoid taxes, mounting debts, and labor conscription, often becoming vagrants. Types of conscripted labor service include up to sixty days per year of unpaid work on construction details; military service, in which soldiers have to provide their own food and weapons; palace and border guard duty for lengthy periods; and three years’ work in the capital in return for exemption from most taxes and assessments. Hired workers, paid with food and money, also are used on state building projects.

40 percent of the population. Over the centuries that follow, epidemics, famines, and natural disasters causing crop failures undermine the nation’s social fabric, leading to a rising tide of lawlessness and provincial violence. 737: A government ban on private loans (often at rates as high as 100 percent per year) also reduces interest rates for farmers. Public lenders benefit, increasing the income of local officials. 740: In a simplification of local government, villages are abolished and replaced by towns made up of two or three villages. 743: Official permission is given for private ownership of virgin lands opened up for rice cultivation, benefiting mainly rich farmers who can afford to clear land. This eventually leads to landed estates known as shoen. 757: In inheritance matters, the Yoro code reduces the eldest son’s share to twice that of his brothers and recognizes inheritance by daughters, who get half of what brothers do. In commoner families each member apparently gets an equal share.

Science-Technology, Economics, and Everyday Life


HEIAN PERIOD: 794–1185 763: In the provinces, robbery and arson of

government grain warehouses, often by local officials, spreads and continues into the early ninth century. 795: The rate of interest on state loans is reduced to 30 percent per year. 844: The last recorded widespread land reallocation takes place in the provinces. 950: Todaiji temple owns shoen in twentythree provinces, with the total area surpassing fourteen thousand acres. With a great increase in land holdings by aristocrats and religious institutions, shoen virtually become manorial-style autonomous administrative and economic units, decentralizing state power. c. 1050: Artisans, previously under patronage of court and government, begin to produce goods on their own to sell in the marketplace. This leads to formation of za—crafts or trade guilds of artisans, merchants, or service providers. Each za operates under the protection of a patron. The earliest records of za, connected to Todaiji temple, date from 1097. 1108: Mount Asama erupts, spreading volcanic ash across Kanto Plain, burying rice paddies, and causing great damage in Kozuke province. 1156: A major fire destroys the Great Audi-

ence Hall of the imperial palace; it will not be rebuilt. Fires, accidental and intentional, are recurrent events in the capital (in 1151 and 1163) and provinces. The capital undergoes famine in 1181 and suffers earthquakes (late 1170s to early 1180s). 1179: As inflation rises and the value of money drops, court issues decree prohibiting use of Southern Song coins, which enter the country in large amounts through trade with China. (Japan has minted no money since the Nara era.) Later decrees of 1187 and 1189 ban their use only in Kyoto marketplaces. The decrees have little effect as Japanese merchants export rice, pearls, gold, mercury, sulfur, and craft items such as fans, folding screens, and scrolls. Excessive exporting to obtain coinage destabilizes the Japanese economy, and the sale of rice abroad causes periodic famine crises. Japanese continue to import coins, as well as luxury cloth, incense, Buddhist writings, calligraphy tools, and art objects of gold, silver, ivory, and precious stones. 1180–1182: A terrible famine followed by pestilence in Taira-dominated western Honshu ends fighting in the Great Civil War for two years. The situation favors the Minamoto, who have access to the agriculture of the Kanto Plain in the east, which is less affected.

KAMAKURA PERIOD: 1185–1333 1192: The imperial court issues a final ban

Early 13th century: The shogunate authorizes

on coin usage; by 1226, the court expresses a preference for using coins rather than cloth as the medium of exchange. By 1240 the shogunate forbids coins only in the northernmost Ou region. By the mid- to late thirteenth century, coins are the primary medium of exchange in cities, greatly facilitating financial transactions and the growth of commerce.

marketplaces in Kamakura; most regional markets operate three days per month. By the late thirteenth century independent suppliers and shops conduct business more efficiently than under the old patronage system. In the mid-thirteenth century, the shogunate organizes za in Kamakura. 1221: After the Jokyo Disturbance, the shogunate confiscates the land of those who par-



ticipate and assigns loyal retainers to lands as jito, or military stewards. Thus the shogunate establishes lord-vassal relations within the proprietary rights structure of the shoen system. Once on the land, the jito seek to expand their authority. In the early fourteenth century, relations with estate managers are formalized with jito ukesho, or contracts between shoen proprietors and jito, who are authorized to collect and deliver the annual tax. 1227: The shogunate orders provincial police to end the activity of akuto (evil bands), bandit groups that steal rice revenues, sometimes under the direction of jito. 1230: The shogunate bans the establishment of new shoen. At their height in the twelfth century, shoen were the nation’s most important political and economic institution. With increased shogunal control, they eventually change into feudal estates controlled by the warrior class. In the fourteenth century, shiki (office) structure—the right to receive income from shoen according to one’s position within the shoen hierarchy—weakens. 1231: A major famine ravages the country; another famine occurs in 1259. 1232: At Kamakura, the island of Wake-noShima is built to facilitate ship docking; it soon becomes the end of the Inland Sea route for domestic and foreign trade. To improve shipping, Asahina Canal is opened in 1241. 1239: The shogunate bans jito from appointing money lenders as debt collectors. Warriors take on mortgages in order to offset falling revenues and to buy luxury goods; many lose their lands as debts mount. 1252: The shogunate temporarily bans the

sale of sake rice wine and destroys 32,274 sake jars in Kamakura. 1254: To limit traffic on the Inland Sea, the shogunate bans possession of more than five Chinese ships and orders the destruction of those exceeding that number. The law is meant to protect shogunal merchant ships and to increase control over trade. By late Kamakura times, the shogunate monopolizes public trading ships. 1255: A shogunal document attests to the growth of moneylenders, who usually take pawns. Most are Buddhist monks (sanso), shipping agents, and merchants. 1267: A decree forces lenders to accept overdue debt payments for lands already confiscated for nonpayment. The order undermines commercial contractual relationships in order to rescue shogunal retainers from financial disaster. 1279: From this year dates the oldest surviving Japanese bill of exchange, enabling its holder from Kii province to receive cash in Kamakura. 1284: The shogunate issues the Tokusei decree to cancel debts of shogunal retainers as an alternative to losing their lands to creditors, thus sacrificing justice to political expediency. Late 13th century: Spread of do-ikki, associations of land cultivators and lower rank warriors, organized to obtain relief from financial hardship or redress for political grievances. With improved agricultural techniques and productivity, more peasants become independent cultivators. Their protests contribute to the weakening of the shoen system. 1293: An earthquake in Kamakura kills some 23,000 inhabitants.

Science-Technology, Economics, and Everyday Life


MUROMACHI PERIOD: 1333–1573 1300s–1400s: Progress in the use of the clay-

slime process for iron smelting, use of the pit saw for construction, and the use of the carpenter’s plane. The manufacture of paper, silk brocade, and cotton cloth is introduced. 1342: Takauji sends a trading ship to China, uses profits to build Tenryoji temple; other “temple ships” follow. 1350s: Za (craft or trade guilds) appear in rural areas. Debt cancellation and prohibition of debt cancellation are alternately mandated from this time. Both afford revenue to the shogunate, which takes a percentage of the amount owed each time. 1352: Takauji’s hanzei (half-tax) decree reserves half of rice harvest of temples, shrines, and shoen for emergency military rations; it becomes a permanent source of income for military class. 1400s: Under daimyo (regional warlords), improved agricultural techniques include better tools, double cropping of rice and barley, new varieties of rice; use of the water wheel for irrigation, of fertilizer, and of draft animals; and the introduction of regional cash crops such as tea, flax, hemp, soybean, fruit, indigo, sesame, and cotton. Crop surpluses are often lost to debtor land confiscations. 1404: The “tally trade” pact will govern trade with China for 150 years. The system, imposed by the Chinese, limits the number of official Japanese trading missions per year. Tallies (paper certificates) carried by ships are checked against Chinese registers on arrival, providing evidence that vessels are not those of pirates or smugglers. The system is also meant to prevent Japanese dumping of goods in excess of allowable quotas. Tally trade begins as a shogunal monopoly; it becomes a joint venture of the shogunate, temples, daimyo, and merchants; and finally it is controlled by Ouchi and Hosokawa,

whose rivalry leads China to end it in 1549. After that, aggressive Portuguese traders carry goods to and from Japan in competition with smugglers and pirates. 1426: Korea limits Japanese trade to official vessels traveling on ambassadorial business. Those without passports will be considered pirates. The policy is implemented by 1436. In 1443 the Kakitsu Treaty limits Japan to fifty ships per year. Japanese trade with Korea is greater than with China. Imports include tiger and boar hides, ginseng, religious articles, floral patterned woven mats, honey, and cotton cloth. 1428–1431: Famine in 1428 leads to a strike by transport workers and riots by farmers. In 1431 a major famine in Kyoto leads to the forced sale of rice. Widespread famine and plagues occur in the 1440s, 1450s, 1461, 1491– 1500, and 1540. 1454: Tofukuji temple sets up a toll barrier on the highway to raise money for building a pagoda; residents tear down the barrier and burn the temple. They go on to raid Kyoto moneylenders’ offices and destroy contracts. The shogunate offers partial debt cancellation. Private toll barriers erected at fief boundaries, crossroads, and river crossings often provoke public ire. In 1459 shogun Yoshimasa uses barriers to try to create an artificial rice shortage so as to raise the selling price; he is forced to take them down after two months. In 1568 Nobunaga abolishes provincial toll barriers. 1500: The financial situation in Kyoto is abysmal, as the emperor dies and lies unburied for six months because the treasury has no funds for a funeral. 1543: Portuguese introduce matchlock muskets; in six months, Japanese are able to manufacture them. Modern firearms and cannon change the strategy of war, lead to castle-building, and allow national unification. With larger and more maneuverable



ships, the Portuguese bring in glassware, clocks, eyeglasses, wool and velvet textiles, and tobacco, as well as muskets. The shogunate borrows money from Sakai merchants, securing the loan by pledging tax revenues. A “free city,” Sakai hires ronin (masterless samurai) for defense.

1571: As Japan’s “window on the West,” Na-

gasaki, with a good natural harbor and easily defensible, becomes a major port and center for the Portuguese, who trade mainly in Chinese silk and Japanese silver; in 1580 Jesuits are granted judicial sovereignty over the city and area.

M O M O YA M A P E R I O D : 1 5 7 3 – 1 6 1 5 1580: English trading ships first arrive in Hir-

ado, off Nagasaki. 1590: Hideyoshi orders a census on which to base a new land-holding and taxation system. Taxes henceforth are to be paid in rice, not money, to facilitate the provisioning of the army. Farmers are forbidden to neglect or abandon fields. 1591: Hideyoshi orders craftsmen and merchants to reside in towns, not villages. Each man is to follow the occupation of his father. He also takes over all gold and silver mines, mints new coins, standardizes system of weights and measures, and controls foreign trade. 1602: Driven off course by a storm, the Span-

ish ship Espiritu Santo lands in Shimizu harbor in Tosa province. Wanting trade with New Spain, Tokugawa release the crew. 1603: Nihonbashi bridge is erected in Edo. It becomes the hub of the road system and the point from which all distances are measured. 1609: Trade with Holland begins as the Dutch found a post on Hirado. Ieyasu favors trade with the Dutch and English because they are not interested in promulgating Christianity. 1613: An envoy from King James i receives permission for the English to trade with Japan. They ignore advice and choose an unsuitable site for a trading station, which they shut down after ten years.

EDO PERIOD: 1615–1868 1616: Measures to limit foreign influence be-

1657: In Edo, the Meireki fire burns large

gin, confining all except Chinese ships to Nagasaki and Hirado. In 1621 the shogun bans overseas travel, the construction of keeled long-distance vessels, and export of weapons. In 1635 the shogunate restricts foreign trade and ships to Nagasaki and bans Japanese from returning home from abroad (sakoku laws). The Dutch post on Hirado remains in operation until a total ban in 1639, when the Dutch move to Dejima. 1642: The shogunate issues regulations on village system, ordering collective organization and requiring householders to work their own land. In 1643 it prohibits the sale and purchase of farmland.

areas, most of Edo castle, and more than 350 shrines and temples, leaving more than 100,000 dead. The city is rebuilt with attention to disaster planning, with tiled rather than thatched roofs, open spaces as firebreaks, and earthen wall barriers. Over the centuries, some ninety serious fires occur there. In 1718, townsmen form fire brigades. 1684: In Edo, the shogunate issues codes regulating publishing. 1686: The shogunate issues regulations on trade with Korea. In 1688 China is limited to seventy ships to Nagasaki each year. In 1715 new laws limit China to thirty ships and Holland to two ships. In 1736 the Chinese

Science-Technology, Economics, and Everyday Life

are limited to twenty-five vessels, to prevent overexportation of Japanese copper. 1697: In Osaka, the Dojima rice exchange begins. In 1710, it operates with warehouse notes instead of actual grain and deals in futures. 1698: Shogun Tsunayoshi calls for the first devaluation of the currency. In the nineteenth century numerous devaluations will follow. 1707: Last eruption of Mount Fuji (as of 1998). 1719: Nishiwaka Joken writes Chonin bukuro (A Bagful of Advice for Merchants), followed in 1721 by Hyakusho bukuro (A Bagful of Advice for Farmers), which calls for literacy among farmers. 1720: Shogun Yoshimune partially ends the ban on Dutch books and allows their translation; political and religious books still are taboo. Japanese rangaku (Dutch learning) scholars stream to Nagasaki to study Western science and technology, including medicine, military tactics and strategy, agriculture, botany, mathematics, navigation, surveying, astronomy, cartography, ballistics, and armaments manufacture, as well as the art of vanishing-point perspective. 1724: In Edo, rice, oil, and other commodity dealers are ordered to form closed associations. In 1726 wholesalers are ordered to submit price lists and account books to the shogunate. By now new cash crops include sugar cane and mulberry, with cotton constituting 25 percent of the produce of four provinces. 1725: The Edo population is 1.3 million (that of Kyoto is 400,000, of Osaka 300,000), with the samurai occupying two-thirds of the city area and 600,000 commoners crammed into one-eighth. 1732: In southwest Japan, a locust plague and bad weather result in the Kyoho famine. In the 1782–1787 Temmei famine, hundreds of thousands die nationwide, with reports of cannibalism. In the 1833–1836 Tempo famine some 200,000 to 300,000 perish. 1733: In the first violent public action in Edo


and other cities, chonin (commoners) attack the stores of rice merchants to protest high rice and commodity prices. 1750s: Merchants issue paper certificates as currency (tegata) backed by silver in their warehouses. In the 1660s daimyo began to issue paper domain money (hansatsu); in 1707 the shogunate banned it until 1730. Government will not print paper money until the 1860s. In 1772 the shogunate mints nanryo nishugin coin to increase currency in circulation. 1760s: Peasant uprisings and urban riots increase. 1774: Kaitai shinsho, the first complete Japanese translation of a Western anatomical text, appears. 1779: Hiraga Gennai dies; he invented a hand-cranked electric dynamo, a thermometer, and an asbestos clothmaking process and theorized about bussangaku (the science of production). 1783: Eruption of Mount Asama damages Kanto’s rice agricultural lands, contributing to the Temmei famine and resulting in some twenty thousand deaths. 1789: Shogunal retainers are granted debt moratoriums to rescue them from destitution. 1798: Kondo Jozo explores the Kurile Islands. In 1811 Russian captain Vasilii Golovin is captured while surveying the Kuriles; he writes a widely read account of imprisonment. 1809: Establishing that Sakhalin is an island, Mamiya Rinzo finds the Tatar Strait. 1816: After seventeen years, Ino Tadataka completes the first accurate cartographic survey of all Japan. 1822: Cholera breaks out in Nagasaki and spreads to central Japan. 1823: Arriving in Nagasaki to act as physician to the Dutch, Philipp von Siebold opens a school in 1824 to teach Western medicine and science to Japanese students. In 1829, he is placed under house arrest for receiving Japanese maps and is banished, while Japa-



nese scholars, notably Takahashi Kageyasu, are punished as spies. Siebold later writes encyclopedic works on Japanese flora and fauna. 1842: The shogunate bans domain monopolies. Agronomist Okura Nagatsune (1768–?) begins publication of Koeki kokusan ko (On In-

creasing Profits and Productivity), the most influential farming manual in nineteenthcentury Japan. 1855: In Edo, more than seven thousand die in the Ansei earthquake. In Nagasaki, a naval officer training school is founded. 1857: In Nirayama, a steel production reverberatory furnace is constructed.

MEIJI PERIOD: 1868–1912 July 1868: The first national paper currency,

Dajokan satsu, is issued. It is not well received; new bills are issued in 1872. 1868: In Honolulu, 148 Japanese contract laborers arrive to work on Hawaiian sugar plantations. In 1869 some twenty members of the Wakamatsu colony arrive in California. A large-scale exodus begins in 1885–1886 when government eases restrictions on emigration, which is seen as a way of alleviating economic pressures. In 1899, 790 laborers sail to Peru to work on farms and by 1940 some 33,000 Japanese settle in Peru. In June 1900 the first emigrants leave Kobe for Brazil. 1870: A telegraph line unites Tokyo and Yokohama. April 20, 1871: A government-run postal service is established between Tokyo and Osaka; it is extended in July 1872 to the rest of the country. 1871: The yen becomes the official monetary unit, based on the gold standard. 1872: The first national census finds the population at 33,110,825. A railroad connecting Tokyo and Yokohama is completed; the area around the Tokyo terminal develops into the Ginza shopping and entertainment district. To facilitate industrialization, government builds a model silk-reeling mill, with French advice and machinery, in Tomioka. In 1879 the Senju woolen mill, built with German assistance and machinery, begins operation. Most government factories prove unprofita-

ble and are sold to private parties in the 1880s. January 1, 1873: The Gregorian calendar is adopted. July 28, 1873: The Land Reform Tax Law passed. It sets the tax rate at 3 percent of value and 1 percent for local surtax; evaluation is left to landowners. Peasant uprisings in Ibaraki and Mie Prefectures in 1876 result in rate reductions. In 1872 the shogunate ban on the sale and purchase of agricultural land was revoked. 1873: Iwasaki Yataro (1835–1885) founds the Mitsubishi Shokai trading company. After eliminating competitors through price cuts and well-integrated shipping routes, the company owns 80 percent of the nation’s ships by 1877. It diversifies into banking, mining, insurance, iron works, and other areas. Such industrial and financial combines, or zaibatsu, contribute to rapid industrialization and receive favorable government treatment during the era. Other major zaibatsu include Mitsui (founded in 1673), Sumitomo (a seventeenth-century merchant house), and Yasuda, founded in 1880. 1875: Tokyo Meteorological Observatory is founded. In 1878, the National Astronomical Observatory is established as part of Tokyo University. 1876: American William Smith Clark arrives to serve as Sapporo Agricultural College vice president; he is credited with advising students, “Boys, be ambitious!”—a familiar Japanese slogan.

Science-Technology, Economics, and Everyday Life 1877: In an early environmental incident,

acidic pollutants from the Ashio copper mine contaminate more than fifty thousand acres of land on the Kanto Plain. Despite protests by farmers and ineffectual government controls of 1897, pollution continues until 1973 when the mine is closed. In 1974 farmers receive $7 million in damages as a result of the first successful major pollution case. American zoologist Edward Morse arrives, organizes the Tokyo University zoology department, and introduces Darwinian theory. In the same year, he discovers the Omori Shell Mounds and conducts the first modern archaeological excavation in Japan. 1882: To halt inflation, the Bank of Japan is organized; in May 1885 it begins the issue of convertible banknotes. June 14–16, 1886: At Amamiya silk mill, a strike by women workers is first such labor action by Japanese factory employees. 1887: Electric power first reaches Japan in the form of thermal power, which continues to predominate until 1912, even after hydroelectric power is introduced in 1890. 1888: An eruption of Bandaisan volcano results in forty-four deaths. Lava dams the Nagasegawa River to form three lakes and a swamp. 1890: Public telephone service is inaugurated in Tokyo and Yokohama. Bacteriologist Kitasato Shibasaburo (1853– 1931), together with the German scientist Emil Behring, develops serum therapies for tetanus and diphtheria. In 1892 he establishes the Institute for Infectious Diseases in Tokyo. In the 1894 Hong Kong bubonic plague, he independently identifies the bacillus. 1893: Air pollution from the Besshi copper mine pervades Ehime Prefecture. 1896: Yawata Iron and Steel Works, the nation’s largest steel mill, is started by the government with the aid of German engineers. It begins operation in 1901 with iron ore from China and Korea, producing mainly military armaments and railroad equipment.


Government takes the lead in establishing basic industries—shipbuilding, mining, machine tools, cement, and glass—most of which later are given over to private control. 1897: Inventor and industrialist Toyoda Sakichi (1867–1930) designs the first Japanese power loom; in 1924 he designs an automatic power loom, at the time the most advanced in the world, which allows Japan to dominate the world silk trade in the 1920s. From his industrial research complex arise other industries, including Toyota Motor Corporation in 1933. 1907: The first experimental twelve-horsepower automobile is made. Domestic makes are produced in small numbers but cannot compete with imported cars, primarily from the United States, in the 1920s. In 1925–1926, Ford and General Motors set up plants in Japan to assemble vehicles from imported parts. 1908: Chemist Ikeda Kikunae (1864–1936) extracts monosodium glutamate (MSG) from kombu (kelp); this later becomes a commercial seasoning. December 19, 1910: The first airplane flight in Japan takes place at Tokyo’s Yoyogi drill ground. Production begins of foreign planes under international license; in the late 1920s, production begins of Japanese planes, primarily military craft. March 29, 1911: The Factory Law of 1911 is the first Japanese law to protect labor in private industry: it sets the minimum child-labor age at twelve and maximum working hours at twelve, and sets guidelines for accident compensation. It is rarely enforced. Japan’s first modern labor union was founded in 1897. Trade unions organized in the 1890s, mainly on a company basis, are disbanded during World War II. January 1912: Following an unsuccessful 1910 attempt, explorer Shirase Nobu (1861–1946) leads the first Japanese research expedition to Antarctica, landing on the continent from the Ross Sea; he names the Yamato Snow Field.



TAISHO PERIOD: 1912–1926 August 1912: Suzuki Bunji (1885–1946) and

June 25–August 9, 1921: In Kobe, a simulta-

others found Yoaikai, a pioneering labor group; the name is changed to Sodomei in 1921. 1917: Physicist Honda Kotaro (1870–1954) discovers that adding cobalt to tungsten steel produces increased magnetic strength; this leads to the development of strong magnetic alloys. 1918: Pioneer geneticist Toyama Kametaro (1867–1918) dies; he improved silkworm breeds by discovering that Mendel’s Law applies to insects, and applied Mendelism to eugenics.

neous strike at the Kawasaki and Mitsubishi shipyards is the nation’s largest labor dispute to date. 1925: The first radio broadcasts begin from Tokyo Broadcasting Station, which in 1926 combines with Osaka and Nagoya stations to form Nippon Hoso kyokai or NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation), the sole public network in Japan until the end of World War II.

E A R LY S H O WA P E R I O D : 1 9 2 6 – 1 9 4 5 Electrical engineer Yagi Hidetsugu (1886–1976) develops the Yagi-Uda antenna, the most commonly used configuration for radio and television reception. January 1927: Government plans to redeem “earthquake bills” (loans to banks affected by Tokyo earthquake), triggering rumors of bank collapses. The Financial Crisis of 1927 ensues as thirty-seven banks are closed and the cabinet is forced to resign. As a result, five major zaibatsu banks come to control the nation’s finances. In the same year, the Tokyo subway opens. 1928: Pioneering bacteriologist Noguchi Hideyo (1876–1928) isolates the syphilis spirochete. 1926:

March 1930: The Showa Depression of 1930–

1935 begins as the stock market plummets and foreign trade declines as a result of the Japanese return to the gold standard and of the worldwide economic depression. This leads to sharp price decreases for agricultural products, bankruptcies, bank closings, business failures, 2.5 million unemployed, and violent labor disputes. 1939: Tejiro Yabuta and Hayashi extract gibberelin A from a soil fungus; this will be used as a strong growth hormone for rice. 1942: A railway tunnel under Kammon Strait, linking Honshu and Kyushu, is completed.

L AT E S H O WA P E R I O D : 1 9 4 5 – 1 9 8 9 1946: With World War II barely over, the Jap-

anese Union of Scientists and Engineers is founded with the goal of reviving Japan’s industries by using statistical quality control. May 19, 1946: Before the Tokyo imperial palace some 300,000 demonstrate against food

shortages. Fearing a threat to democracy, General MacArthur will ban the general strike planned for February 1, 1947, protesting labor laws of 1945–1947, which establish the rights of workers and place limits on unions.

Science-Technology, Economics, and Everyday Life October 21, 1946: The Diet passes a land re-

form bill: addressing long-time social problems, it changes the economic structure of rural Japan by ousting landlords and by facilitating land purchases by cultivators. July 1947: General MacArthur calls for the dissolution of zaibatsu in an attempt to decentralize economic power. After 1952, former zaibatsu regroup in loose affiliations known as keiretsu. December 18, 1948: To halt inflation, General MacArthur imposes Nine Principles for Economic Stabilization: these mandate balanced budget, limitation of credit, improved tax collection, wage stabilization, price controls, foreign trade controls, and a rationing system. On May 12, 1949, stock markets are allowed to reopen. 1949: Yukawa Hideki (1907–1981) is the first Japanese recipient of the Nobel Prize for physics. 1950: U.S. business consultant W. Edwards Deming (1900–1993) arrives by invitation to teach new methods of industrial quality control; his techniques aid Japan’s rise to dominance. In 1951, Japan founds the Deming Prize, a competitive quality-control award. U.S. corporations will take up Deming’s ideas in the 1980s in order to compete better. April 14–December 18, 1952: A lengthy labor dispute by the Densan, or Electrical Workers’ Union, results in a September strike stopping the production of electricity. Coal miners coordinate with electrical workers, beginning their own strike in October. Enforcement of the national emergency provision of the Labor Relations Adjustment Law ends both strikes in December. In 1953, the government enacts restrictions on labor actions by the electrical power and coal industries. February 1, 1953: Television broadcasting begins; color programming starts in 1960. 1953–1960: In Minamata, industrial plant outflow poisons fish with mercury and causes nerve and mental damage to humans. The disaster leaves 1,293 official victims,


6,009 unofficial victims, and 305 dead. A similar event occurs in Niigata in 1964–1965. June–October 1955: In the Chogoku and Kinki regions, dried milk contaminated with arsenic poisons 12,000 infants, causes serious nerve damage; 130 die. In the same year, cadmium poisoning from liquid wastes of mining and smelting operations leads to an outbreak of itai-itai disease. August 1955: Japan joins GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) and is forced to liberalize trading practices. 1955: The Sony Corporation introduces the first transistor radio to the world market; this begins growth of the Japanese consumerelectronics industry. January 1957: As part of the International Geophysical Year, Japan establishes the Showa research station in Antarctica. On December 1, 1959, Japan signs the Antarctica Treaty, setting the region aside as a scientific preserve. January–November 1960: In the nation’s longest full-scale strike, Miike coal miners seek to uphold workers’ rights. 1960: Innovative engineer Honda Soichiro (1906–1991) builds the world’s largest motorcycle plant in Mie Prefecture. In 1963 he begins production of an automobile with a low pollution engine—the CVCC (combined vortex controlled combustion). October 1, 1964: A high speed “bullet train” begins operation; traveling at an average of one hundred miles per hour, it reduces travel time from Tokyo to Osaka from 6.5 to 2.5 hours. 1965: The Nobel Prize in physics is shared by Tomonaga Shin’ichiro (1906–1979). 1967: Japan’s population reaches 100,000,000. 1968: In the Kanemi oil poisoning incident, cooking oil contaminated with PCBs sickens fourteen thousand and leaves one hundred dead. Legal procedures last until 1989, when the court finds negligence, advancing the product-liability concept. Kawasaki Heavy Industries begins work on



industrial robots. By the 1990s, Japan leads the world in robot development and usage. Japan passes West Germany to become the world’s second largest market economy. February 11, 1970: Japan becomes the fourth nation to orbit a scientific satellite. In 1983, Japan successfully launches two communications satellites for TV broadcasting. July 27, 1970: A Tokyo photochemical smog emergency sickens eight thousand, leading to a limited auto ban in central areas. The smog emergency of March–May 1972 provokes further demand for pollution curbs on industry. In 1971 the cabinet-level Environment Agency is organized, and in 1973 the Pollution-Related Health Damage Compensation Law passes. 1973: Esaki Reona (1925– ) shares the Nobel Prize in physics. An oil price shock leads to a greater reliance on nuclear power. By December 1989 thirty-seven reactors provide 23 percent of energy needs. November 26–December 13, 1975: Members of the Public Corporation and National Enterprise Workers’ Union (Korokyo) conduct a series of actions calling for restoration of the right to strike for public employees. 1978: Nippon Electricity Company (NEC) introduces the Voice Data Input Terminal; it can recognize 120 words spoken in groups of up to five words. April 30, 1978: Uemura Naomi (1941–1984) is the first to reach the North Pole alone by dog sled after a fifty-four-day trek. 1979: Sony introduces the Walkman, a small portable cassette player with earphones. And in Tokyo the first commercial network of cellular telephones is set up. April 6, 1980: The average height of Japan’s current generation exceeds that of its parents by two inches (five centimeters), that of its grandparents by four inches (ten centimeters). 1980: Japan’s auto production surpasses that of the United States. 1981: Fukui Ken’ichi (1918– ) shares the Nobel Prize for chemistry.

Japanese scientists develop computer chips with 64 kilobits of memory. These quickly take over the market. 1982: Japan announces that it is starting a program to develop the so-called fifth generation of computers, to be based on the concept of artificial intelligence. 1984: NEC of Japan introduces the first chips with 256 kilobits of memory, four times the capacity of previous computer chips. Japanese scientists discover an immune system suppressor in a fungus; known as FK506, it has results similar to those of cyclosporine. 1985: Seiko-Epson builds a TV set with a liquid crystal display on a two-inch screen. April 5, 1985: Japan agrees to end all commercial whaling by March 1988. August 12, 1985: A Japan Air Lines Boeing 747 crashes into Mount Ogura, leaving 520 dead, the country’s worst single plane disaster to date. 1986: The first DAT (digital audio tape) recorders are demonstrated. At Sendai, a subway system controlled by computers using “fuzzy logic” is demonstrated. 1987: Immunologist Tonegawa Susumu (1939– ) wins the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine. Nippon Telephone and Telegraph (along with IBM in the United States) introduces experimental 4- and 16-megabit chips. Japanese companies introduce telephones on airplanes, with calls relayed by satellites. Japanese investors purchase $26.34 billion in U.S. real estate, mostly in Hawaii, California, and New York. They go on to buy stakes in Rockefeller Center and the Chrysler Building. Sony will purchase CBS Records and Columbia Pictures. 1988: Yamaha introduces an electronic digitalized piano that uses compact discs (CDs) to direct the motion of keys. March 13, 1988: The Seikan train tunnel from Honshu to Hokkaido, the world’s longest to date, opens. 1988: Japan becomes the world’s leading financial aid donor and creditor nation.

Science-Technology, Economics, and Everyday Life


HEISEI PERIOD: 1989–1998 1989: Japan now controls about 90 percent of

the world’s market for 1-megabit DRAMs— dynamic random access memory chips, one of the basic components of computers. In June, seven leading U.S. computer and semiconductor firms announce that they intend to form a consortium to build DRAMs and thus challenge Japan’s dominance. However, on June 22, IBM announces that it is already producing 4-megabit memory chips, instantly putting the Japanese behind in the race to make better computers. Within six months the Japanese share of the market begins to decline and the American firms decide not to form a consortium. Japan initiates the first daily broadcasts of its analog version of high definition television (HDTV). 1990: Journalist Akiyama Toyohiro, on the Soviet Soyuz TM-11, is Japan’s first man in space. In 1992, first astronaut Mori Mamoru travels on the U.S. Endeavor mission, followed by the first Japanese woman astronaut, Dr. Naito-Mukai Chiaki, aboard the Columbia in 1994 and by Koichi Wakata, the first astronaut to work full time in the U.S. shuttle program, on the 1996 Endeavor flight. In 1997, Takao Doi is first Japanese astronaut, during the Columbia mission, to walk in space. December 31, 1990: After reaching an all-time high of 38,916 in December 1989, Japan’s stock market Nikkei index falls to 23,838. Japan’s financial troubles are traced to the threat to its oil supplies stemming from the crisis in the Persian Gulf. 1991: The Diet passes an antiracketeering law that affects sophisticated large crime syndicates known as yakuza, whose growth parallels and infiltrates the legitimate economy. 1993: Fujitsu announces that it is making a 256-megabit memory chip. March 11, 1993: It is reported that of the

world’s twenty-three developed countries, Japan has the lowest infant mortality rate—5 deaths per 1,000 births. (This compares to the U.S. ranking at twentieth, with 9.2 deaths per 1,000 births.) December 14, 1993: The rice import ban is lifted; this follows several years of negotiations with the United States and other nations, seeking ways to alleviate large trade imbalances. December 31, 1993: Japan’s Nikkei stock market halts its two-year slide with the index ending the year at 17,417. January 17, 1995: A powerful earthquake (7.2 on the Richter scale) strikes the area around Kobe; Japan’s worst since 1923, it kills more than 5,000, injures more than 26,000, and leaves 300,000 homeless. The government is criticized for mishandling relief efforts. December 31, 1995: After plunging to a new low of 15,381 in April, the Nikkei stock market index ends the year at 19,868. January 30, 1996: Amateur astronomer Hyakutake Yuji first spots the brightest comet to approach Earth in four hundred years; it is named after him. December 31, 1996: Japan’s economy appears to be heading for a drastic downturn. Although the Nikkei stock market index remains stable at 19,361, bankruptcies are increasing, many large loans are going bad, banks and financial services are going under, and real estate and construction projects are failing. December 31, 1997: The Nikkei stock market index collapses to a new low of 15,259; although blamed on the devaluation of its Asian neighbors’ currencies, it is also due to Japan’s failure to deal with its own domestic financial problems. March 1998: Unemployment rises to 3.9 percent; although not high by many other nations’ standards, this is Japan’s highest



since it began using the current method of calculating in 1953. June 5, 1998: An international team of scientists led by Yoji Totsuko of the Kamioka Neutrino Observatory in Japan announces

that neutrinos, subatomic particles long assumed to have no mass, do in fact have mass. This will force physicists to revise the standard model that explains particles and physical forces as the basis of all atomic physics.


E A R LY H I S T O R Y: 5 0 0 , 0 0 0 – 5 7


Archaeological sites throughout Korea suggest that primitive humans inhabit the peninsula as early as 500,000 b.c. The well-excavated site at Sokchangni gives conclusive evidence of Late Paleolithic settlements, dating back to 30,000 b.c., that use a variety of crude stone tools to hunt and fish. The Ice Age and subsequent rise in sea level seem to obliterate these early populations, though some evidence may exist of late Mesolithic communities along the coast. The culture of the Neolithic Period passes through three distinct phases of development, each with its representative form of pottery. During the last of these three phases, agricultural methods are developed. As early as the ninth century b.c. northern cultures begin to use bronze in the manufacture of weapons and other items. These cultures develop a more advanced social organization that is the forerunner of the tribal federations that emerge in the fourth century b.c. Chief among these federations is Old Choson, which occupies much of the Liao and Taedong river basins. After a period of decline, Old Choson falls to Wiman, an exile from the Yan state in northern China. Wiman proves to be a strong ruler, but his ambitious program of expansion eventually brings him into conflict with the Han dynasty of China. The Han defeats Wiman Choson and establishes a protectorate over northern Korea in 108 b.c. Resistance to Chinese hegemony, however, is strong, and China reduces the territory under its active control to Nangnang (Luolang) colony with an administrative center near modern P’yongyang. 500,000 B . C .: According to radiocarbon test-

ing of primitive tools found at Sokchangni (near Kongju) and Sangwon (near P’yongyang), the Korean peninsula begins to be inhabited about this time. 100,000–40,000 B . C .: Pre-Neanderthal and Neanderthal humans appear on the Korean peninsula. Evidence found in caves at

Chommal (near Chechon) and Turubong (near Chongju) suggests a cave-dwelling culture that hunts, fishes, and gathers nuts and other vegetation. Small figurines found at these sites suggest the beginnings of an animistic faith. 30,000–20,000 B . C .: The upper layers of the Sokchangni excavation site show a more ad-


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vanced culture developing on the peninsula. These people, perhaps early Homo sapiens of Mongoloid stock, dwell around hearths that they use for cooking and warmth; dwelling sites may have been enclosed. Like the Neanderthals, they carve figurines that suggest an animistic faith. 15,000 B . C .: Rock engravings at Sokchangni are the oldest known in East Asia. 8,000 B . C .: The beginning of Korea’s Mesolithic era. Microliths found in some coastal sites suggest the existence of settlements from this time. However, as sea levels rise in the Atlantic Neolithic Period, these cultures are likely submerged. 6,000–5,000 B . C .: The first settlements of Neolithic man appear on the Korean peninsula. These settlements are confined mostly to coastal areas and are characterized by the use of a simple pottery that is either completely undecorated or adorned with short strips of clay affixed to the vessel’s body. Pottery of this type is also found in Manchuria and Tsushima. This is the first of three distinctive periods of Neolithic culture in Korea. It is theorized that these three phases may correspond to three separate waves of southward migration. 4,000 B . C .: A distinctive combware pottery appears. This pottery, common to the Altaic tribes of Central Asia, is characterized by decorative strips of clay which have been wrapped around the body of the vessel in a manner evoking the scratches of a comb. The combware pottery is found mostly along the coast and near river beds, indicating that these people may depend heavily on fishing. Judging from hunting implements found at these sites, they also hunt animals such as deer and wild boar. They live in thatch huts built over a circular or square pit. These huts are clustered to form small communities. 2000 B . C .: A new type of pottery, characterized by its painted designs, appears throughout the Korean peninsula. What sort of interaction clans producing this type of pottery have with the combware clans is uncertain.

The two cultures seem to exist side by side, but ultimately the latter disappears as the former develops agricultural techniques. 2333 B . C .: According to a foundation myth recorded in the Samguk yusa (Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms, 1285) and elsewhere, Tangun, a ruler born of the god Hwanung and a she-bear, founds the kingdom of Old Choson at modern P’yongyang. In the popular imagination this marks the beginning of the Korean state.

Unable to find a husband, the bear-woman prayed under an altar tree for a child. Hwanung metamorphosed himself, lay with her, and begot a son, called Tangun Wanggom. . . . In the fiftieth year of the reign of Emperor Yao, Tangun made the walled city of P’yongyang the capital and called his country Choson. Foundation myth of Korea, from the Samguk yusa (Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms), compiled by Buddhist monk Iryon (1285)

900 B . C . –300 B . C .: Korea’s Bronze Age. An ag-

ricultural people using bronze daggers and bronze mirrors appear throughout the Sungari and Liao river basins. These people are the first Koreans to cultivate rice. Their fortified settlements, known as walled-town, or tribal, states are Korea’s first organized political structures. The existence of dolmen tombs suggests a pronounced social hierarchy, inasmuch as these graves for the privileged would require an organized labor force for their construction. The culture of this period appears to be Scytho-Siberian in origin. 1122 B . C .: According to ancient Chinese texts, Kija (Viscount Chi) leads a band of Shang dynasty loyalists into Korea, and establishes a kingdom with its capital at P’yongyang. c. 4th century B . C .: Tribal federations such as Puyo, Yemaek, Old Choson, Imdun, and Chinbon emerge on the model of the

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Bronze Age’s walled-town state. Old Choson, the most powerful of these federations, traces its lineage to Tangun, the mythical ruler of 2333 b.c. The federation of Chin develops south of the Han River. Iron rapidly replaces bronze in the making of weapons and tools, particularly among members of the emergent ruling class. A unique heating system, called ondol, is also developed around this time: It consists of flues running under the floor bearing heat from a fire on one side of the house to a chimney on the other. 4th century–3d century B . C .: The three Korean Han societies emerge south of the Han River, an area once solely dominated by the Chin tribal confederation. Mahan occupies the west, Chinhan the east, Pyonhan the south of this region. Late 4th century B . C .: The northern Chinese state of Yan invades the Liaodong Peninsula. Old Choson declines. 194–180? B . C .: Wiman, an important refugee from the Chinese state of Yen, usurps the Old Choson throne, establishes a rudimentary legal system, and greatly expands the kingdom’s territory. Records kept during his reign are the first in Korea’s history. 108 B . C .: The Han dynasty Emperor Wudi defeats Wiman and establishes four Chinese commanderies: Nangnang (Luolang), Chinbon (Zhenfan), Imdun (Lintun), and


Hyondo (Xuantu). The Chinese do not press south of the Han River. c. 1st century B . C . –1st century A . D .: Three songs from Korea’s earliest history have been handed down through several of Korea’s histories. Hwangjo ka (Song of the Orioles) appears in the Samguk sagi, where it is given the date 17 b.c.; Kuji ka, or Yong singnun ka (Song of Welcoming the Gods) appears in the Samguk yusa (a.d. 42); and Kong mudoha (A Medley for Harp) appears in the Haedong Yoksa. These songs are sung at ritual occasions such as the harvest and sowing festivals, and may have been composed earlier than the 1st century b.c. Oh lilting, joyous yellow bird! You mate to live, and love each other; While I, alas, unloved, unheard Have lost my everything, sweet brother. Hwangjo ka (Song of the Orioles), believed to be Korea’s earliest extant poem, unknown author (c. 17 b.c.)

B . C .: Due to the persistent resistance of local populations, particularly the emergent Koguryo people, the Chinese abandon outposts in Chinbon and Imdun. 75 B . C .: Chinese abandon Hyondo, leaving Nangnang as the last region directly administered by Chinese officials.



B.C. –A.D.


While actively resisting Chinese sovereignty, local populations assimilate much of China’s culture and adopt many of its legal and ethical precepts. Consequently, from the loose tribal organizations of the past emerge legitimate states with a highly stratified social system culminating in a monarch. By the third century a.d. Paekche in the southwest, Silla in the southeast, and Koguryo in the north emerge as the dominant kingdoms south of the Liao and Sungari rivers, while Kaya, with strong connections to Japan, occupies the peninsula’s southern tip. In 313 Koguryo seizes the territory of the last remaining Chinese colony. China, however, continues to influence the political theater with diplomatic arrangements designed to keep the peninsula fragmented and susceptible to repossession. This policy backfires as Tang dynasty rulers lend their support to Silla only to witness the peninsula firmly unified under Silla governance by the end of the seventh century. During this period, Buddhism takes hold in all three kingdoms.


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It combines with Confucian ideals and ancient beliefs and practices to form the fabric of Korea’s national consciousness. Several of Korea’s first histories, including Paekche’s Sogi (Documentary Records) and Koguryo’s Yugi (Extant Records), are compiled. 57 B . C .: The legendary date for the founding

234–286: Reign of King Koi, the eighth ruler

of the kingdom of Silla. In fact, the “kingdom” at this point consists solely of what is to be its nucleus, the walled-town state of Saro located near the Naktong River in southeast Korea. 37 B . C .: According to legend, Chumong founds the kingdom of Koguryo in a region centered on the middle Yalu and the T’ungchia River basin. The state at this juncture is probably still in transition from a loose confederation of tribes to a monarchy. 18 B . C .: According to legend, Onjo founds the kingdom of Paekche in the Mahan area of southwest Korea. However, like Silla and Koguryo, Paekche is more likely still in transition from a tribal federation to a monarchy at this juncture. 1st century A . D .: Puyo emerges as a powerful tribal federation in northern Manchuria. Its people are primarily settled along the Sungari River. Puyo rivals Koguryo to the south and forges a conciliatory policy toward China. A . D . 30: Some Nangnang gentry lead a rebellion against the Chinese administration, but are suppressed by Chinese forces. Many seek refuge south of the Han River. 53–146: Reign of Koguryo’s sixth ruler, King T’aejo. He secures the right to succession for his clan, the Ko house of the Kyeru lineage, adopts a more aggressive policy toward China, and greatly expands Koguryo’s territory by subjugating the Okcho and Eastern Ye peoples who had occupied Korea’s northeast littoral. A rudimentary bureaucracy centered in Kungnaesong develops at this time. 206: In an effort to check the growing power of the Korean societies south of the Han River, Chinese administrators of Nangnang establish control of the area once governed as Chinbon. The territory is called Taebang (Taifang).

of Paekche. He firmly establishes Paekche’s dominance of the former Mahan area, develops a rudimentary bureaucracy centered in Hansong, and secures the right of succession for his heirs. A policy of northward expansion begins. Mid-3d century: Kaya emerges as a kingdom with dominion over the southern tip of the peninsula. 313: Koguryo seizes the territories of China’s Nangnang colony ending China’s four-hundred-year presence on the peninsula. Mid–late 4th century: Scholar Kohong writes a history of Paekche entitled Sogi (Documentary Records). Other histories follow including Paekcheki (Records of Paekche), Paekche pon’gi (Basic Annals of Paekche), and Paekche sinch’an (New History of Paekche). 346–375: Reign of King Konch’ogo, the thirteenth ruler of Paekche. He strengthens the authority of the throne and initiates a campaign of territorial expansion. 356–401: Reign of King Naemul, the seventeenth ruler of Silla. By forging close ties with Koguryo he is able to stave off the aggressive Paekche. He is the first Silla ruler to secure the right of succession to the throne for his heirs. 371: Paekche pushes north and defeats Koguryo in a battle at P’yongyang. 371–384: King Sosurium, the seventeenth ruler of Koguryo, establishes Buddhism (375) as the spiritual foundation of the state and Confucius’s teachings as the legal basis. He extends the Chinese-influenced bureaucracy and commissions the Yugi, a history of Koguryo that has not survived. 372: Sosurium establishes T’aehak—a royal academy to train prospective government officials in Chinese language and the Confucian classics.

ko re a 384: A Serindian monk named Malananda

introduces Buddhism into Paekche. In the same year Mukhoja, a monk from Koguryo introduces Buddhism into Silla, but the doctrine is not accepted by the state and adherents suffer persecution. 391–412: Reign of King Kwanggaet’o, the nineteenth ruler of Koguryo. Allying himself with Silla, he embarks on a number of military campaigns that greatly enlarge Koguryo territory. Conquests include Liaodong in the west, much of Manchuria to the north, and the region between the Imjin and Han rivers formerly controlled by Paekche to the south. In addition, he routs Japanese invaders in the Silla-controlled Naktong river basin. 5th–6th centuries: Large tomb chambers are built along the Yalu River. Elaborately decorated with fresco-type murals, the tombs provide the most vivid and enduring picture of Koguryo art. The style of these paintings, particularly the use of real and fantastic animals, reflects a Central Asian influence. The scale of the tombs, which probably required a large labor force dedicated to the honor of an important person, indicates an increasingly stratified social system. 400: Japan attacks Silla. Koguryo sends assistance and the Japanese are repelled. His gracious beneficence blended with that of August Heaven; and with his majestic military virtue he encompassed the four seas like a willow tree and swept out, thus bringing tranquillity to his rule. His people flourished in a wealthy state, and the five grains ripened abundantly. But Imperial Heaven was pitiless, and at thirty-nine he expired in majesty, forsaking his realm. Part of an inscription on a stele dedicated to King Kwanggaet’o (391–413) of Koguryo, erected in 414

413–491: Reign of King Changsu, the twen-

tieth ruler of Koguryo. He establishes a policy of southern expansion. 414: Stone monument consisting of 1,800 seal


script characters is erected in Kungnaesong to honor King Kwanggaet’o. The monument, discovered in 1875, is one of the best preserved examples of early Korean calligraphy and relates in relative detail the various conquests of the king. 427: King Changsu moves the Koguryo capital southward from Kungnaesong to P’yongyang. The move reflects a need for an effective metropolitan center from which to govern the provinces of Koguryo’s advancing southern frontier. 433: Paekche establishes an alliance with Silla against the aggressive Koguryo. 475: The Paekche capital, Hansong, falls to Koguryo troops. Paekche establishes a new capital at Ungjin, where it remains for sixtythree years. 494: Koguryo absorbs the remaining Puyo tribes in the north. 500–514: Reign of King Chijong, the twentysecond ruler of Silla. He is the first Silla ruler to adopt the Chinese title wang (king). 514–540: Reign of King Pophong, the twentythird ruler of Silla. He extends territory by defeat of the Pon Kaya tribe in Naktong River basin. 520: Pophong promulgates a code of administrative law and institutes the “bone rank” system, a codification of Silla’s increasingly stratified social system. 523–554: Reign of King Song, the twentysixth ruler of Paekche. He moves the capital to Sabi (modern Puyo) in 538 and forges close ties to the Liang dynasty in southern China and to Japan. Buddhism flourishes and is conveyed to Japan. c. 527: Silla recognizes Buddhism. Monks are accepted into highest social order (hwarang), and the state, hitherto the least culturally evolved of the Three Kingdoms, strengthens its stability by giving religious justification for the authority of its rulers. 539: Korea’s oldest extant Buddhist image is cast in bronze. The simple figurine depicts a standing Buddha with eyes closed and one hand raised in the manner of a blessing.


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Found in Koguryo, South Yonngsang province, it is unclear where the image was cast. 540–575: Reign of King Chinhong, the twenty-fourth ruler of Silla. He initiates a policy of territorial expansion. 551–554: Silla and Paekche attack Koguryo’s territories along the Han River basin. Having seized upper reaches of the Han River basin, Silla turns on its ally, Paekche, in a gambit to control the entire Han region. In 554, Paekche makes a counterattack on Silla led by King Song himself. The attack fails and Song is killed. 562: Silla conquers Tae Kaya, the last of the Kaya tribes. Kaya refugees settle in Japan. 590&ndash618: Reign of King Yongsangyang, the twenty-sixth ruler of Koguryo. 598: Emperor Wendi of China begins the first of several campaigns to subdue Koguryo. Koguryo mounts a successful defense and counterattack. 612: Emperor Yangdi of China mounts a massive invasion of Koguryo. Under the leadership of General Olchi Mundok, Koguryo once again repels the invaders. The emperor launches several more campaigns (613, 614) but fails to gain any advantage. These costly military failures contribute to the downfall of the Sui in 618. 631: Koguryo completes construction of elaborate fortifications along the Liao River in an effort to discourage Chinese aggression.

Reign of Queen Sondok, the twenty-seventh ruler of Silla. During her reign the Son, or Meditation, School of Buddhism is introduced. The faith, however, remains esoteric until the ninth century and the founding of the Nine Mountain Sects of Son. 633: One of Korea’s oldest extant monuments, a stone observatory called Ch’omsongdae, is erected. The observatory is evidence of an increased concern with astronomy and calendrical science. 642–655: Paekche, confident of Koguryo and Japanese support, mounts an offensive against Silla. Despite modest territorial gains, their diplomatic position vis-a`-vis China is significantly weakened. 644–659: China’s Tang dynasty attempts several invasions of Koguryo, but is unable to penetrate the Liao River fortifications. 660: Combined Tang and Silla forces attack Paekche and swiftly achieve complete victory. Paekche surrenders on July 18, 660. 667: The Tang-Silla alliance launches an offensive against Koguryo, whose resources have been depleted by decades of Chinese aggression. Autumn 668: P’yongyang falls and the Koguryo kingdom comes to an end. Tang moves to establish control of the fallen Paekche and Koguryo territories. Koguryo refugees flee north to establish the kingdom of Parhae. 632–647:

S I L L A U N I F I C AT I O N : 6 7 0 – 9 3 6 Having successfully resisted Chinese maneuvers to reestablish dominance on the peninsula, Silla fixes its northern border at a line extending from the Bay of Wonsan to the Taedong River. The strength of the aristocracy weakens, which consequently alleviates tendencies towards internal strife and allows the Muyol legacy to rule uncontested for over a hundred years. Meanwhile Koguryo refugees led by Tae Choyong establish the Parhae kingdom to the north. Assimilation of Paekche and Koguryo cultures, the continued prosperity of Buddhism, and political stability combine to have a salubrious effect on the arts in Silla. Scholars, most notably Sol Ch’ong, develop idu, a system of transcribing Korean phonetics using Chinese characters; hyangga, a genre of vernacular poetry that appeared in late Three Kingdoms Silla, flourishes;

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painting and sculpture continue to develop, particularly in treatment of Buddhist themes; and porcelain begins to replace earthenware, particularly in ceremonial usage. In the late eighth century, however, conflict arises in the aristocracy, and Silla enters a period of decline. As the authority of the throne diminishes, the power of competing aristocratic families increases. Silla attempts to gain more control of its provinces in 889 with a drive to collect taxes, but this fails as the country erupts into a series of peasant rebellions. Later Paekche and Koryo emerge from this chaos, as Silla falls back on the domain surrounding Kyongju’s capital. Around this time the Khitan tribes overrun the north as members of Paekche’s ruling class join the strengthening Koryo state. Silla surrenders what is left of its authority to Koryo in 935. The following year Later Paekche collapses. c. 670: Construction begins on Anap Pond

and Imhae Hall, a new residence for Silla’s monarch. 671: Silla assumes control of regions once held by the Paekche kingdom. The Chinese vie for control for these same regions, but are driven back by Silla. 676: After a string of victories in the Han River basin, Silla drives the remaining Tang troops from Korean soil. 677–684?: Wonhyo (617–686) writes Palsim suhaeng chang (Arouse Your Mind and Practice!), a seminal article in Buddhist literature. Wonhyo’s writings, particularly his numerous scriptural commentaries, exert a considerable influence on Korean, Chinese, and Japanese thought. 681–692: Reign of King Sinmun, the thirtyfirst ruler of Silla, a direct descendent of King Muyol. In 681, after a coup led by Kim Homdol fails, Sinmun instigates a decisive purge of all political opponents, the consequence of which is a further strengthening of royal authority. Late 7th century—early 8th century: Scholars, most notably Sol Ch’ong (c. 660–730), develop idu, a system for transcribing Korean phonetics into Chinese characters. 682: Kukhak, a royal Confucian college, is founded in Silla. In 750 the name is changed to T’aehak. 685: Silla is divided into nine provinces (chu) to be administered by governors appointed from the aristocratic class. These governors are forced to relocate from Kyongju to the

respective capitals of their provinces. The nine chu are Sangju, Yangju, and Kwangju from the former Silla-Kaya territories; Ungju, Chonju, and Muju from the former Paekche territories; and Hanju, Sakchu, and Myongju from the former Koguryo territories. These provinces are then divided into prefectures (kun) and finally counties (hyon). 699: In the area of southern Manchuria once dominated by the state of Puyo, the former Koguryo general Tae Choyong establishes the kingdom of Chin. He assumes the title King Ko and rules over a population that consists primarily of Koguryo (hereafter to remain the society’s aristocracy) and the seminomadic Malgal people. In 713 the name of kingdom becomes Parhae. Early 8th century: The scholar Kim Taemun writes a number of books that chronicle the development of Silla culture. None of these works is extant, but evidence exists that they contributed to the later Samguk sagi (Historical Records of the Three Kingdoms). 8th century–10th century: Hyangga, a vernacular verse genre, flourishes. Twenty-five songs of this form are extant, fourteen in the Samguk yusa (Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms, 1285), and eleven devotional songs of Great Master Kyunyo in the Knunyochon (Life of Kyunyo, 1075). 702–737: Reign of King Songdok, a direct descendant of King Muyol and the thirty-third ruler of Silla. Conflicts with the Tang resolved, and the nobility submissive to the


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throne, Silla begins a period of domestic peace and cultural growth. Parhae, however, emerges as a threat to the northern border. 705: A political climate conducive to commerce helps Parhae establish diplomatic relations with Tang China. 711?: Kim Saeng, Silla’s most renowned calligrapher, is born. No examples of Kim’s calligraphy are extant. 721: Recognizing the threat of Parhae, Silla heavily fortifies its northern border. 722: A land distribution system called Chongjonje (able-bodied land) is instituted in Silla. The system, which is an adaptation of Chinese notions, allots arable land to families based on the number of males between the ages of twenty and sixty. 725: Korea’s oldest extant bronze bell is cast at Sangwon Monastery on Mount Odae. 733: An alliance of Tang and Silla troops mounts an unsuccessful invasion of Parhae territories. Mid-8th century?: A copy of the Dharani scripture found beneath a pagoda at Pulguk monastery (erected 751) indicates that Silla develops the art of woodblock printing around this time. The process is used to disseminate Buddhist and Confucian materials. 742–765: Reign of King Kyongdok, the thirtyfifth ruler of Silla. Although his reign marks the pinnacle of Silla prosperity, discontent among the aristocracy grows. 751: Construction of Pulguk Monastery and Sokkuram grotto. These monuments exhibit in their art an advanced religious awareness, and in their engineering a sophisticated mathematical knowledge. 765–780: Reign of King Hyegong, the thirtysixth ruler of Silla. 768–774: Kim Taegong’s plot against the throne touches off six years of political chaos, as a number of prominent nobles vie for power. Kim Yangsang emerges from the fray to seize control of the government and reduce King Hyegong to a mere figurehead.

771: Korea’s largest bronze bell is cast at Pang-

dok Temple and dedicated to King Songdok. 780: Kim Yangsang assassinates King Hye-

gong and usurps the throne as King Sondok. The political stability enjoyed by Silla in the century following the rule of Muyol is never again to be attained. Intraclan struggles and decentralization of power ensue. Late 8th century: The astronomer Kim Am writes a treatise influenced by Chinese occult arts, entitled Tun’gap ipsong pop (The Principles of Evading Stems). 785–798: Reign of King Wonsong, the thirtyeighth ruler of Silla. Despite the political tumult that predominates in Silla, his descendants hold the throne until 935, when the last Silla king, Ky’ongsun, surrenders to Wang Kon, the founder of the kingdom of Koryo. 788: An examination system for the selection of public officials is inaugurated in Silla. The system, like that of the Chinese, is primarily concerned with knowledge of the Confucian classics. Early 9th century: At Porim Monastery the monk Tooi founds the Mount Kaji sect of the Son School of Buddhism. This leads to the establishment of the Nine Mountain Sects of Son. 819–830: Reign of King Son, the tenth ruler of Parhae. The kingdom reaches its height, its territory extending to the Amur River in the north, the Hamgyong region of the Korean peninsula in the south, central Manchuria in the west, and the Sea of Japan in the east. 822: Kim Honch’ang, a descendent of King Muyol, rebels against Wonsong. Despite some initial success the rebellion fails. 828: Chang Pogo establishes the Ch’onghae Garrison on Wan Island. With troops that number as many as ten thousand men he is able to subdue piracy in the area of the Yellow Sea and control trade with Japan and China. He is the most important example of the increasing independence of aristocratic families in Silla’s outlying provinces.

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adence of Silla society and its need of Chinese imports, King Hongdok issues a decree restricting ostentatious displays of wealth. 836–839: For three years after the death of King Hongdok several members of the Kim clan vie for the throne. Four kings come to the throne in three years. 839: With the support of Chang Pogo, Kim Ujing ascends to the throne as King Sinmu. 839–857: Reign of Sinmu’s son King Munsong over Silla. 846: Chang Pogo is assassinated. 851: Ch’onghae Garrison is abolished. 885: Ch’oe Ch’iwon returns from China to take his place in the Silla court as an honored Confucian scholar. Upon his return he is active in criticizing the rigidity of Silla’s “bone rank” system, a codification of its levels of aristocracy. 887–897: Reign of Queen Chinsong, the fiftyfirst ruler of Silla. She commissions the monks Taegu and Wi Hong to compile an anthology of hyangga (vernacular poems). Entitled Samdae mok (Collection of Hyangga from the Three Periods of Silla History, 888), it is no longer extant. 889: In an effort to exert a more direct control over its provinces, Silla’s Kyongju court forces tax collections in all outlying areas under its dominion. This results in numerous peasant uprisings throughout the country. The first of these rebellions erupts in Pugwon in Sangju in 888. 892: Kyonhwon, a leader of peasant uprisings in Kwangju and later in Chonju, proclaims himself sole monarch over the territories in his control. He calls this kingdom Later Paekche (Hu Paekche) in an effort to provide legitimacy to his throne. Late 9th century–early 10th century: Monk Toson (d. 898) systematizes a theory of geomancy that combines Daoist and Buddhist elements. Wang Kon, the founder of the


Koryo dynasty (reigned 918–943), later uses Toson’s principles to justify the transfer of power on the peninsula away from Kyongju to his native region of Songak. Such calculated use of geomancy becomes a common political strategy in the years of the Koryo dynasty. 901: Kungye, a former Silla prince who had emerged as a formidable commander in the peasant uprisings, proclaims himself king of a territory encompassing large parts of Kangwon, Kyonggi, and Hwanghae provinces. He calls the kingdom Later Koguryo, but later changes the name to T’aebong. 918: Wang Kon (posthumously King T’aejo) deposes Kungye as the ruler of T’aebong, moves the capital to Songak (Kaesong), and renames the kingdom Koryo. His military genius and his ability to garner support from local gentry prove instrumental in Koryo’s drive to reunify the peninsula under its banner. Wang Kon establishes a conciliatory policy toward Silla and concentrates his attention on his campaign against Later Paekche. September 20, 923–July 19, 973: Life of Great Master Kyunyo, the great practitioner of hyangga and devout Buddhist. Through his teachings and poems written in the vernacular he does much to popularize Buddhism. 926: The Khitan conquer the Parhae territories. Members of Parhae’s ruling class flee to join the emergent Koryo kingdom. 927: Kyonhwon of Later Paekche raids Kyongju, the capital of Silla. He orders King Kyongae to commit suicide, abducts members of the royal family, and pillages the city’s treasures. He is repulsed only by Wang Kon’s intervention on behalf of Silla. 935: Ruling over a kingdom that in reality does not extend beyond Kyongju, Silla’s last king, Ky’ongsun, surrenders his authority to Wang Kon. 936: Later Paekche collapses. Koryo remains the sole power on the peninsula.


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KORYO: 918–1392 Wang Kon, posthumously known as T’aejo, establishes command of the Korean peninsula. He creates a new aristocratic order favoring former Silla aristocrats and provincial lords, but is also careful to reward the military leaders who had brought him to power. Subsequent rulers, however, gradually push aside the military elite and local magnates, and promote civil officials supportive of a strong central government. The Mongolian-Khitan invasions of the late tenth century challenge the stability of the Koryo government, but a period of prosperity follows the defeat of the Khitan in 1018. Trade flourishes, extending as far abroad as the Middle East, and a number of important scholarly works are compiled, including the Samguk sagi (Historical Records of the Three Kingdoms). In 1170, the discontent of military officers erupts into a series of rebellions from which Chong Chungbu emerges as leader. A succession of military dictatorships follow, notably the Ch’oe “shogunate,” which rules Korea from 1196 until 1258. A new bureaucratic class, known as the sadaebu, or literati, emerges during military rule. It is this group of well-educated but low-level government officials that gravitate towards the Neoconfucian ideals of Ju Xi. It is also this group that is responsible for a number of developments in Korean literature, principally the kyonggi-style poetry and prose tales, essays, and biographies best typified by the work of Yi Kyubo. In 1231, despite a brief alliance in the struggle against the Jurchen, a Manchurian people, the Mongols turn on Koryo and demand fealty. A long, bloody war ensues, but in 1259 the court of Wonong seeks peace with the Mongols. In the fourteenth century various factions within Koryo vie with one another to fill the power vacuum left by the Mongols, whose empire rapidly declines in the later half of the century. Yi Songgye emerges from this imbroglio to usher in a new era of Korean history. 918–943: Reign of King T’aejo (Wang Kon).

He adopts a lenient policy toward provincial magnates and appeases the Silla aristocracy by appointing them to high posts in the new government. He issues ten injunctions to serve as the basis of future government. In these injunctions he stresses the importance of national defense, Buddhism, unity among the aristocratic clans, and the strength of local government. Would that all my merit Might be passed on to others I would like to awaken them— Those wandering in the sea of suffering. “Transfer of Merit,” Great Master Kyunyo (10th century)

937: The Khitan, a seminomadic Mongolian

people ruling over much of former Parhae, establish the Liao kingdom. 945–949: Reign of Chongjong. Hoping to

transfer the capital to P’yongyang, Chongjong undertakes a massive renewal project in that city. The capital, however, remains in Kaesong. 949–975: Reign of Kwangjong. 956: Kwangjong restores all slaves to commoner status. This act increases the central government’s tax base and concomitantly weakens the power of local rulers. 958: Kwangjong establishes a civil service examination system based on merit. A new bureaucratic order is established, diminishing the power of military officials, who had been instrumental in securing the supremacy of the Koryo kingdom. 975–981: Reign of Kyongjong. 976: The Stipend Land Law (chonsikwa) is enacted. The law provides grants of land to a few privileged members of the civil government. In 998 a comprehensive land allotment system is devised. 981–997: Reign of Songjong. Throughout his reign Songjong is particularly attentive

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to the views of Confucian scholars, notably Ch’oe Songno (927–989). His reforms, such as the appointment of district officials by the central government, tend to strengthen the central bureaucracy at the expense of the local aristocracy. 983: Songjong establishes twelve provinces (mok). The administrators of these provinces are appointed by the court in Kaesong. 983–993: The Mongolian-Khitan kingdom of Liao makes a number of attacks on Koryo’s northern border, principally in 983, 985, 989, and 993. Koryo erects fortifications along the south bank of the Yalu River. 985: Envoys from Koryo travel to Beijing, China, to make a formal request for military assistance in their struggle against Liao. Faced with severe threats to its own security, the Song court refuses. 989: Just before his death Ch’oe Songno presents a twenty-eight point memorial outlining his vision of Koryo’s ideal government. The memorial includes his estimation of the first five reigns of the Koryo dynasty, and his opinion of the reforms required to fulfill the promise of T’aejo. 992: The Royal Confucian Academy (Kukchagam) is established in Kaesong. 993: Koryo’s commanding general So Hoi (940–998) negotiates a peace treaty with Liao. Koryo’s northern boundary is recognized at the Yalu River. 994: Diplomatic relations open between Liao and Koryo. A Koryo military campaign to purge its northwest frontier of Manchurian and Jurchen tribes proves successful. 996: Coins are minted, but a money economy is slow to take root. 997–1009: Reign of Mokchong. 998: The Stipend Land Law, enacted in 976, is comprehensively revised. Under the new system, the Kaesong court allocates land to government officials in proportion to their rank. A given lot is not inheritable, but passes to the next incumbent of the position to which that lot is attached. This particular stipulation enforces the notion that all land


belongs to the king. Military officials, whose rank in this system is not high, are thereby deprived of sizable portions of land. Resentment among the military officials culminates in the coup d’e´tat of 1014. 1009: Fearful of plots against him, Mokchong summons Kang Cho from his administrative post in the northwest. However, Kang Cho himself engineers a successful coup in which Mokchong is assassinated. 1009–1031: Reign of Hyonjong. 1010: Liao initiates a fresh attack on Koryo’s northern border with the ostensible purpose of avenging the murdered Mokchong. Liao troops penetrate Koryo’s Yalu fortifications and capture and execute Kang Cho. Kaesong falls. The Koryo court flees south to Naju. 1011: The process of carving woodblocks for Korea’s first printing of the Buddhist canon (the Tripitaka) begins. The project is undertaken at the direction of the Hyonjong court in part to petition the Buddha’s aid in the struggle against Liao, and in part to solidify the authority of the state religion. Son (Meditation School) documents are excluded in deference to the Kyo (Doctrinal School). The process takes seventy-seven years to complete. c. 1014: Hyonjong commissions Ch’oe Hang to compile a history of the Koryo kingdom from T’aejo to Mokchong. 1014: Incensed at the growing dominance of civil officials, military officers stage a successful coup d’e´tat. Hyonjong remains the king, but the government comes under the control of Kim Hun and Ch’oe Chil, two military leaders who had taken leading roles in the coup. 1017: Silsangt’ap, a noted stupa memorializing National Preceptor Hongpop, is erected at Chongt’o Monastery. 1018: The Hyonjong court restructures local government. It divides the country into a capital region (kyonggi), five large administrative units (to), and two regions (kye) of particular strategic importance along the northern boundary and northeast littoral. In


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addition to Kaesong the court establishes P’yongyang as the western capital and Kyongju as the eastern capital. Kyongju’s status as capital is later revoked in deference to a nuance of geomancy, and Hanyang (presentday Seoul) is named as the southern capital. It also creates five regional military commands (tohobu) and realigns the provinces (mok) so that they number eight. It further divides provinces into districts (kun), counties (hyon), and garrisons (chin). 1018: The Mongolian-Khitan troops of Liao, led by Xiao Baiya, cross into Koryo territory. The army is badly beaten at Anju by Koryo troops under the command of General Kamch’an. Lines of retreat are cut by General Minch’on. Facing complete surrender, the Khitans risk an attack on the capital. The attack fails. 1029: An outer wall around Kaesong, begun at General Kamch’an’s direction, is completed. 1044: A stone wall fortifying Koryo’s northern border is completed. 1046–1083: Reign of Munjong. Mid-eleventh century: Ch’oe Ch’ung (984– 1068) establishes the Nine Course Academy for the study of the Confucian classics and Chinese history. A dozen other schools modeled after Ch’oe Ch’ung’s are subsequently founded. These academies are dubbed the Twelve Assemblies (Sibi to), and eventually supersede the prestige of the Royal Confucian Academy (Kukchagam). 1067: Hongwang Monastery, begun at the direction of T’aejo, is completed. 1085: Hyonmyot’ap, a noted stupa memorializing National Preceptor Chigwang, is erected at Popch’on Monastery. 1087: The first set of woodblocks for Koryo’s Tripitaka is completed. 1090: Oich’on (1055–1101), also known as National Preceptor Taegak, publishes his Sokchanggyong (Supplement to the Canon), an anthology of commentaries and treatises by East Asian Buddhists not included in the Tripitaka. Oich’on had long championed an

extension of the predominantly Indian canon. He also strives to bring Koryo’s conflicting schools of Buddhism into harmony. 1103–1122: Reign of Yejong. During his reign Yejong does much to restore the preeminence of the state academies. He establishes a scholarship foundation called the Fund for Nurturing Worthies (Yanghyon’go), and on the palace grounds builds academic institutes called the Ch’ongyon and the Pomun pavilions. 1104: In a move portending the ascendancy of the Jurchen, Wu Youzi attacks Koryo. He penetrates as far as Chongp’yong (Chongju). 1107: Yun Kwan leads a Koryo force across the Chongp’yong pass driving back the Jurchen. He penetrates Jurchen territory as far as Hongwon. 1108: Having driven back the Jurchen, Yun Kwan secures the northern frontier with the construction of nine fortresses, and encourages immigration as a means of establishing Koryo sovereignty. However, withering under persistent Jurchen attacks, Koryo abandons the territory. 1115: Conflict on the northern border intensifies as the Jurchen proclaim the Jin empire and begin a successful campaign against the Khitan kingdom of Liao. 1122–1146: Reign of Injong. He does much to advance the system of education, establishing schools in rural areas and dividing the Royal Confucian Academy (Kukchagam) into several colleges. Entrance requirements for a specific college within the National University are based on class. A number of eminent scholars emerge from the schools established by Injong, most notably the compiler of the Samguk sagi, Kim Pusik (1075–1151). The painter Yi Yong is thought to have painted his masterpiece, Yesong River Scene, during Injong’s reign. 1125–1127: Having conquered Liao and China’s Northern Song, the Jurchen Jin demand that Koryo acknowledge their suzerainty. Primarily due to the persuasions of Yi Changyom, the father-in-law of Injong,

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Koryo capitulates, becoming in name a vassalage of the Jin empire. 1126: Learning of a plot against his life, Yi Changyom sets fire to the palace buildings, including the royal library and the national academy. Thousands of books, including early examples of woodblock printing, are lost. 1135–1136: The monk Myoch’ong proclaims a secessionist kingdom and names P’yongyang as his capital. The Kaesong court dispatches troops led by Kim Pusik, who defeats the rebel army and beheads its leaders. 1145: Injong commissions the Confucian scholar Kim Pusik to compile the Samguk sagi (Historical Records of the Three Kingdoms). This is the oldest extant record of Korea’s history. It draws heavily on earlier historical records, the Sogi and the Yugi, that are now lost. 1146–1170: Reign of Oijong. His weakness as ruler allows top civil officials to enlarge their power at the expense of both throne and the military elite. Mid-12th century: Koryo ceramists develop the technique of sanggam, a process for delineating designs using inlaying as opposed to carving or incising. The celadon porcelain of this time is generally considered among the finest ceramic art ever produced in the world. It is characterized by the simple elegance of its form and the delicacy of its colors due to the mineral nephrite, a light-green variety of jade. 1170: The military elite led by Chong Chungbu, Yi Oibang, and Yi Ko orchestrate a quick and bloody coup against the central government. Every attendant to the king and every bureaucrat in residence at the palace is killed. Oijong is spared, but exiled to Koje Island. Following the murders of Yi Ko and Yi Oibang, Chong Chungbu emerges as Koryo’s despotic ruler. Military leaders establish for themselves a monopoly on government positions, thus mirroring the abuses of the supplanted civil officials.


Reign of Prince Ho (posthumously named Myongjong). He remains the puppet of various military dictators throughout his reign. 1172: Soldiers in the western border region (P’yongan province) rebel against local officials. This is the first in a number of popular uprisings that plague Koryo into the thirteenth century. 1173: Kim Podang leads a rebellion in the northeast but is quickly defeated. 1174: The governor of P’yongyang makes a failed attempt at secession. Late 12th century: The monk Chinul (1158– 1210) propagates the teachings of the Chogye sect of Buddhism. The Chogye sect grew out of Oich’on’s efforts to fuse the Kyo and Son schools of Buddhist thought. Unlike Oich’on, however, Chinul places an emphasis on the meditation school. This break from the canon did much to foster a uniquely Korean Buddhist tradition. 1176: A peasant uprising erupts near Kongju. The rebellion spreads through Ch’ungch’ong province before it is put down by government troops. Other outbreaks occur throughout the country. 1179: General Kyong Taesong supplants Chong Chungbu as Koryo’s dictator. He dies, however, not long afterward. Yi Oimin subsequently seizes power. 1182: Soldiers and government slaves rebel against local officials in Chongju. After holding the city for forty days they surrender to government troops. 1193–1202: The popular uprisings of the previous decades intensify as rebel bands join forces and set their sights beyond the seizure of local power. The first such alliance is between Kim Sami and Hyosim in the South (1193). In 1199 the rebels of Myongju (Kangnong) join forces with rebels from Kyongju. Slaves and peasants unite at Hapch’on in 1200, and in 1202 Ch’ongdo and Olchin rebels join the struggle of the Kyongju people. These uprisings are eventually 1171–1190:


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suppressed by the military dictatorship of Ch’oe Ch’unghon. 1196: Ch’oe Ch’unghon (1149–1219) overthrows Yi Oimin. He purges all opposition to his rule and removes the last vestiges of authority from the throne. He and his successors rule Koryo as a sort of shogunate until 1258. 1197: Choe Ch’unghon deposes Myongjong and installs the completely submissive Sinjong (reigns 1197–1204). 1198: The would-be social reformer Manjok plots a slave rebellion within Kaesong. The plot is discovered before any uprising occurs. Late 12th–early 13th centuries: Excluded from an active role in the military regime, several Confucian scholars devote their time to the production of Korea’s first sustained narratives. A notable example of the form is Yi Kyubo’s (1168–1241) Kuk sonsaeng chon (Story of Mr. John Barleycorn). Yi Kyubo also writes at this time the verse narrative Tongmyong wang p’yon (Saga of King Tongmyong), significant for its patriotic themes. 1204–1258: Despite the succession of kings Hoijong (1204–1211), Kanjong (1211–1213), and Kojong (1213–1259), power remains in the hands of the Ch’oe military regime. 1215: Mongols conquer the Jin empire; many Khitan flee into Koryo’s northern regions. Koryo joins forces with the Mongols to subdue the Khitan refugees. 1219: The Khitan surrender to the MongolKoryo alliance at Kangdong fortress east of P’yongyang. 1231: A Mongolian army led by Sartaq invades Koryo, allegedly to revenge the murder of a Mongolian diplomat in 1225. As the Mongols advance on Kaesong, Yu Songdan (1168–1232) negotiates a peace. The Mongols leave military governors (daruhaci) to govern Koryo. 1232: Ch’oe U rejects the Mongol peace proposal and moves the Koryo court to Kanghwa Island, where it remains severed from contact with its ostensible subjects. 1232–1270: War with the Mongols continues.

While the court continues its residence on the well-fortified Kanghwa Island, peasants continue to resist the Mongols on the peninsula, often meeting with devastating losses. c. 1235–1251: Seeking Buddha’s aid in the struggle against the Mongols, the court on Kanghwa Island commissions woodblocks for a second Buddhist Tripitaka. This work, commonly known as the “Eighty Thousand Tripitaka” (after its still surviving woodblocks), takes sixteen years to finish and is recognized as the finest of the East Asian editions of the Tripitaka. 1236: Hyangya kugop pang (Emergency Remedies of Folk Medicine), Korea’s first compilation of indigenous medical science, is published. 1249: Ch’oe U dies. In addition to his status as Korea’s most powerful ruler, he was renowned as a great calligrapher, and is often referred to as one of “The Four Worthies of Divine Calligraphy.” The other three are Kim Saeng (born 711?), Yu Sin (died 1104), and T’anyon (1070–1159). The morning dew alights, the evening mist is there, The angry dragon lifts his claw, the phoenix flies; ‘Twas God who made you what you are: Wonderful! No words can tell. Poem by Yi Kyubo on the calligrapher Kim Saeng (13th century)

1254: Jalairtai leads a decisive Mongol inva-

sion. Over 200,000 Koryo subjects are captured, and many more perish; the Hwanyong Monastery is burned; and the woodblocks for the first Tripitaka are destroyed. 1258: Ch’oe Oi, the last of the Ch’oe dictators, is assassinated. Authority reverts back to the king. 1259: Wonong (reigned 1259–1274) ascends to the throne. The court decides to seek peace with the Mongols. 1270: Despite the efforts of Im Yon and his

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son Im Yumu to resist surrender to the Mongols and preserve military rule, the capital returns to Kaesong, Mongol domination is accepted, and the court returns to power. A faction of the military known as the Sambyolch’o (Three Elite Patrols) rebels against the Mongol-Koryo state. 1271: The Mongols proclaim the Yuan dynasty and extract from Koryo a vow of loyalty, imposing severe economic levies. It becomes the practice of Koryo kings to marry Yuan princesses, take Mongol names, use the Mongol language, and dress like Mongols. 1273: The Sambyolch’o rebellion is put down at Cheju Island. 1274: The Mongols force Koryo to participate in its invasion of Japan. The invasion fails. 1274–1308: Reign of King Ch’ungyol. He becomes the first Koryo ruler to adopt the prefix ch’ung, meaning loyal (to Yuan), and abandon the suffix jong, meaning ancestor. He is also the first ruler to favor the Neoconfucian ideas espoused by China’s Ju Xi (Chu Hsi). He establishes a national academy to foster the study of these ideas, the fundamental revolutionary aspect of which is to imbue Confucius’s ethics with a spiritual justification. Buddhism and Confucianism, so long exerting a cooperative influence on national policy, are hereafter in conflict. 1281: Again the Mongols invade Japan, enlisting Koryo aid; again the invasion fails. 1285: The Buddhist monk Iryon compiles the Samguk Yusa (Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms). Compared to the Samguk Sagi (compiled 1145), Iryon’s history puts less emphasis on political events, focusing instead on the daily life and customs of ancient Korea. 1308–1313: Reign of King Ch’ungs’on. Ch’ungs’on, through his own scholarship and his encouragement of others, further propagates the Neoconfucianism of Ju Xi. Early 14th century: A style of poetry known as kyonggi flourishes; it uses the Chinese language, but celebrates Korea’s national heri-


tage. (Kyonggi reflects the word for capital district.) It is practiced by the increasingly prominent Confucian literati, often soldiers, statesmen, and scholars. As kyonggi involves a rigid poetic form, it does not lend itself to romantic themes. Meanwhile changga (“native song”) such as the Ch’ongsan pyolgok (“Song of Green Mountain”) and Sogyong pyolgok (“Song of the Western Capital”) develop out of the folk song tradition and are the first Korean literature in the vernacular. 1313–1330, 1332–1339: Reign of King Ch’ungsuk. 1330–1332, 1339–1344: First reign of King Ch’unghye. 1344–1348: Reign of Ch’ungmok. 1349–1351: Reign of Ch’ungj’ong. Mid-14th century: The attacks of Japanese marauders (waegu) plague the coastal regions of Koryo. Threatened by economic collapse, Koryo mounts an offensive against the waegu. The campaign is successful and several commanders who enjoy victories, notably Ch’oe Yong and Yi Songgye, gain political prestige as well. 1351–1374: Reign of Kongmin. The strength of the Yuan greatly diminished by struggles within China, Kongmin sets about a number of reforms aimed at recovering the prior dignity of Koryo. He abolishes Mongolian military outposts, purges the government of proYuan sentiment, and inaugurates a campaign to retrieve lost territory in the north. 1359–1361: A rebel band from China called the Red Turbans penetrates into northern Koryo. The court abandons Kaesong and flees to Andong. Koryo troops regroup in 1361 and vanquish the Red Turbans. 1363: Mun Ikchom (1329–1398) introduces cotton into Koryo. 1368: The Mongols are driven from China. The Ming dynasty is proclaimed, and Kongmin immediately sends envoys to Beijing to establish congenial diplomatic relations. 1374: Alarmed by the increasing liberality of


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Kongmin’s reforms, a faction of powerful families led by Yi Inim carries out the assassination of Kongmin. Kongmin’s ten-yearold son U is placed on the throne, but power comes increasingly to lie in the hands of Yi Inim and his family. 1374–1388: Reign of King U. Throughout his reign power lies in the hands of Yi Inim. The pro-Ming policy of Kongmin is abandoned and deference returned to the Mongols. 1388: Yi Songgye deposes U and installs U’s son Ch’ang on the throne. An astute statesman, Yi strengthens his position before brazenly usurping the throne for himself. One preparation for such a move is the codification of government practices along Confucian lines that Chong Tojon begins at Yi’s behest in 1388. The result of these efforts are the Choson kyongguk chon (Administrative Code of Choson) and the Kyongje yukchon (Six Codes of Governance), which become the law of the land upon Yi’s ascension in 1392. 1389: Yi Songgye deposes Ch’ang and establishes King Kongyang. Having curried favor with the literati in lower classes of the bureaucracy and thereby providing the ideological underpinning necessary for a new dynasty, Yi Songgye stands poised to make the decisive reforms that will close this chapter of Korea’s history.

1389–1391: Yi Songgye institutes a sweeping

land reform program aimed at denying prominent families the economic foundation on which to build power. The basic statute of this reform is called the Rank Land Law. Under this law all land in the Kyonggi region is allocated to both current and retired government officials in proportion to their rank. All land outside Kyonggi is annexed by the state. These reforms are by and large those counseled by a group of lower government officials faithful to the Neoconfucian ideals of Ju Xi. 1390s?: Movable metal type is used to print Sangjongkogom yemun (Prescribed Ritual Texts of the Past and Present). Pi Cheng of the Northern Song dynasty in China is said to have invented a movable type using clay in the eleventh century, but Koryo’s use of metal type is the first in the world. (Some sources place the first Korean movable type as early as 1234.) 1392: The Supreme Council, the highest organ of the Koryo government, formally declares the end of the Koryo dynasty. Yi Songgye assumes the throne. Like the founder of the Koryo dynasty Wang Kon, he is to be posthumously titled T’aejo (the great progenitor).

E A R LY C H O S O N : 1 3 9 2 – 1 5 9 8 T’aejo establishes a bureaucratic order drawn along Confucian lines. The ruling class is no longer limited to members of the aristocracy as defined by Silla’s bone-rank system or Koryo’s hereditary tradition, but incorporates any who are able to pass the Confucian examinations and attain a government post. This newly defined ruling class is called the yangban, a term that refers to military and civil officials alike. Choson enjoys a flourishing of arts and culture in the years following T’aejo’s reign. Improvements in printing technology allow for many newly published books, including Korea’s first gazetteer, several histories, a treatise on music, and a number of works on farming. Han’gol, Korea’s alphabet, is created and promulgated in 1446. This gives rise to the vernacular verse known as sijo, and in the mid-sixteenth century the lyrical kasa. In the wake of Sejo’s usurpation of the throne (1455), conflict between the meritorious elite (yangban who had been exceptionally favored by T’aejo and subsequent rulers) and the Neoconfucian literati intensifies. Seeing a threat to the authority of the central government

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Sejo launches a series of purges against the Neoconfucian literati. However, the Neoconfucians survive these purges to return to power in the reign of Sonjo (1567–1608). The Japanese ruler Toyotomi Hideyoshi invades Korea in 1592. The war lasts six years, but due to Ming assistance and the brilliant naval victories of Admiral Yi Sunsin, Choson is able to beat back the Japanese invaders and restore normal diplomatic relations. 1392–1398: Reign of T’aejo. 1394: A new palace, Kyongbok, is built in

1442: Choson scholars invent the world’s first

Hanyang (modern Seoul). 1395: T’aejo moves the capital from Kaesong to Hanyang. 1398–1400: Reign of Chongjong. 1400: T’aejo, still the arbiter of national policy despite his abdication, abolishes private armies and absorbs soldiers from those armies into the national army. 1400–1418: Reign of T’aejong. He initiates a severe suppression of Buddhism. 1401: Paper money is printed using mulberry bark. 1403: A foundry is established for the casting of copper type. This leads to influx of newly published books. The type is called kyemi, which in this context means the year 1403. 1406: T’aejong confiscates all lands held by Buddhist temples. 1418–1450: Reign of Sejong. 1419: Sejong commands Yi Chongmu to lead an attack on Tsushima. The purpose of this offensive is to completely destroy the bases from which the Japanese marauders (waegu) have for centuries launched their raids on the Korean peninsula. 1423: Copper coins known as the Choson t’ongbo (circulating treasure of the realm) are minted. However, these coins are primarily used for the purposes of tax collection. Cloth, particularly cotton, remains the main unit of exchange. 1430: The first edition of Nongsa chiksol (Straight Talk on Farming) is published. The book represents an attempt by the Sejong government to address problems of agriculture specific to Korea’s climate. An updated edition appears in 1492. 1432: Korea’s first gazetteer, P’alto chiri chi (Geographical Description of the Eight Provinces) is published.

1443: A trade agreement is reached between

rain gauge. Choson and Japan’s regional warlords, or daimyo. The agreement limits the number of Japanese trading ships authorized to enter Korea’s ports at fifty per year. 1443–1444: A series of military campaigns against the remaining Jurchen tribes and intensified efforts of colonization secure Choson’s northeast border. 1444: The Tribute Tax Law is promulgated, lowering the tax for peasant farmers to onetwentieth of a harvest as opposed to the onetenth ordained by the Rank Land Law (1390). 1446: Sejong promulgates Han’gol, Korea’s indigenous alphabet. In creating the alphabet Sejong relies on the advice of a number of scholars, most notably Song Sammun, Chong Inji, and Sin Sukchu. 1450–1452: Reign of Munjong. 1452–1455: Reign of Tanjong. 1452: Two histories of the Koryo dynasty, Koryosa (History of Koryo) and Koryo sa choryo (Essentials of Koryo History) are published. 1455: Sejo usurps the throne from the boyking Tanjong. Many ardent scholars feel this to be an unforgivably egregious violation of Confucian principles. Their complaints, however, are met with a series of bloody purges. 1455–1468: Reign of Sejo. Sejo’s principal contribution to Korea’s development is his active interest in the insufficiency of Korea’s legal apparatus. He begins a revision of the Six Codes, which is promulgated in 1471. 1456: To secure the authority of his reign, Sejo purges the yangban class of those individuals suspected to oppose his rule. Among those executed are the “six martyred ministers” (sa yuksin).


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1464: Iron coins in the shape of an arrowhead

are minted. However, cloth remains the principal unit of exchange. 1466: Sejo replaces the Rank Land Law with the Office Land Law, which stipulates that officials shall continue to be granted land according to their position, but that upon retirement or death that land is to be handed over to the new incumbent. 1468–1469: Reign of Yejong. 1469–1494: Reign of Songjong. Late 15th century: Kim Sisop (1435–1493) publishes Komo sinhwa (New Stories of the Golden Turtle), a precursor to the vernacular fiction popularized by Ho Kyun in the late sixteenth century. 1471: The Kyongguk taejon (National Code) is promulgated. This compendium of laws effectively reconciles the legal inconsistencies of past reigns and served as the foundation of Korea’s legal system for several hundred years. Work on this project was begun by Sejo. 1478: So Kojong compiles the Tong munson, an anthology of poetry and prose written by Koreans in classical Chinese. 1485: Tongguk t’onggam (Comprehensive Mirror of the Eastern Kingdom), a chronology of major events in Korean history stretching from Tangun to the end of Koryo, is published. 1493: Akhak kwebom (Canon of Music), an illustrated treatise on ceremonial music, Chinese music, and native songs, is published. 1494–1506: Reign of Prince Yonsan. Due to his tyrannical rule he never receives a posthumous title recognizing his kingship. 1498: Prince Yonsan initiates the Purge of 1498 (muo sahwa), in which many Neoconfucian literati held to be disloyal to the prince’s rule are executed or exiled. 1504: The Purge of 1504 (kapcha sahwa). Prince Yonsan initiates another purge of the literati. 1506–1544: Reign of Chungjong. In reaction to the excesses of Prince Yonsan, he pro-

motes the Confucian literati, most notably Cho Kwangjo (1482–1519). As Cho Kwangjo pushes forward increasingly radical reforms, however, resentment among the meritorious elite grows. 1519: Catering to the demands of the meritorious elite, Chungjong launches a purge of the Confucian literati, including Cho Kwangjo, whom he initially endorsed. 1544–1545: Reign of Injong. 1543: Chu Sebung founds the noted Paegundong Academy, modeled on Ju Xi’s Bai Lu Dong in China. Other such schools, known as sowon, appear with increasing frequency throughout Korea. As they insure the propagation of Confucian ideals, sowon prove to be an essential power base for the Neoconfucian literati. 1545: Factions struggle for power after the death of Injong. A fourth, and final, purge of the Neoconfucian literati (olsa sahwa) ensues. 1545–1567: Reign of Myongjong. Mid-16th century–17th century: Sijo and kasa, two indigenous Korean verse forms, flourish. Kasa, a lyric verse consisting of paired lines of four syllables each, is perfected by Chong Ch’ol (1563–1593) in such works as Kwandong pyolgok (Song of Kangwon Scenes) and Sa miin kok (Mindful of My Seemly Lord). The more condensed sijo is shaped by Pak Illo (1561–1643) and Sin Hom (1566–1628), and perfected by Yun Sondo (1587–1671) in works such as Sanjung sin’gok (New Songs from My Mountain Fortress). 1556: The system by which officials are allocated land according to their position is abolished. Hereafter government officials are simply to receive a salary. 1559–1562: The height of brigand leader Im Kokchong’s power. 1567–1608: Reign of Sonjo. He eschews the meritorious elite in favor of the Neoconfucian literati, who begin to dominate the political process. 1575: Traditional date assigned to the begin-

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ning of Korea’s period of “factional strife” (tangjaeng). It is at this time that Kim Hyowon and Sim Oigyom dispute the right to a relatively minor government post. Supporters of the two politicians split into one of two factions—the Eastern (Tong) or Western (So). Rivalries of this sort are to have an increasingly deleterious effect on Korea’s political stability as factions split into subfactions and points of contention compound. The private academies (sowon) are often closely tied to one faction or another. 1583: A Yain force led by Nit’anggae rebels in the northeast. It manages to seize Kyongwon and other garrisons before being subdued by Sin Ip. How many friends have I, you ask? The streams and rocks, the pines and bamboo; Moon rising over the eastern mountain You I welcome too. Enough. Beyond these five companions What need is there for more? From Sanjung sin’gok (New Songs from My Mountain Fastness), by Yun Sondo (1587–1671)


Having unified Japan’s warring daimyo, Japan’s ruler, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, turns his attention to expansion. His troops land at Pusan in the spring with the hope of storming through the Korean peninsula and pushing on to an invasion of Ming China. 1592–1598: The Imjin War. Hideyoshi’s troops meet with much initial success. Sonjo’s court abandons Seoul, flees to Oiji on the northwest border, and petitions the Ming dynasty for aid. Meanwhile, the Korean admiral Yi Sunsin achieves a number of decisive victories at sea. Admiral Yi uses in these battles armored ships of his own invention called “turtle ships” (kobukson); these ships are thought to be the first ironclads ever used in battle. Fierce resistance from guerrilla forces throughout the country and Ming reinforcements push the Japanese invaders south. Peace negotiations begin, but drag on for years. Hideyoshi launches a second attack in 1597, but it fails. The last Japanese troops withdraw after Hideyoshi’s death in 1598. Spring 1592:

L AT E C H O S O N : 1 5 9 8 – 1 9 1 0 As the seventeenth century begins, Choson is on the verge of economic collapse. Revenue to meet the costs of recovery from the Imjin War is impossible to generate as the amount of taxable land has shrunk to dangerous levels. The 1627 and 1636 Manchu invasions further weaken the economy. This dire situation is compounded by the increasing factionalism of the Confucian literati, which impedes the adoption of necessary reforms. In response to these conditions the Sirhak, or Practical Learning, School develops. In 1708 the tax code is revised to remove the burden of debt from the lower classes. The consequential growth of a money economy and a vital merchant class has a salutary effect on Choson. During the reigns of Yongjo (1724–1776) and Chongjo (1776–1800) the kingdom experiences a renaissance. Sirhak scholars produce a number of important works during this time. In the nineteenth century, however, several young kings ascend to the throne. This leads to competition for the role of regent, and factionalism once again dominates the political scene. Furthermore, Choson is slow to realize the imperative of modernization. A host of foreign powers vie for supremacy on the peninsula as Choson’s rulers become mired in myopic power struggles within an increasingly powerless government. In 1910 Japan formally annexes Korea.


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1606: Choson sends envoys to Japan to restore

diplomatic relations. 1608–1623: Reign of Prince Kwanghae. He inherits a country ravaged by the effects of war and imperiled by the ascendancy of the Manchu in the north. Early 17th century: Ho Kyun writes Hong Kiltong chon (The Story of Hong Kiltong), the first fiction of the vernacular style termed sosol (small talk). 1610: Tongoi pogam (The Exemplar of Korean Medicine) is published. 1610–1644: The first knowledge of Christianity reaches Korea when Korean envoys bring Roman Catholic works from Peking (Beijing). 1614: Yi Sugwang publishes Chibong yusol (Topical Discourses of Chibong). The book is often considered to be the foundation of the Sirhak School. 1616: Nurhaci leads the Manchus in a campaign against the Ming dynasty of China. The Ming court requests Choson assistance. Kwanghae reluctantly accedes, but the Korean commander, Kang Hongnip, hoping to avoid Manchu retribution, surrenders at the first opportunity. 1623–1649: Reign of Injo. He comes to power in a coup d’e´tat engineered by the so-called Western faction. 1624: Yi Kwal, who had been instrumental in establishing Injo on the throne but had received a relatively low official post, rises in rebellion. He occupies Seoul for a time before suffering defeat at the hands of government troops. Many of his followers escape to Manchuria, where they lobby for a Manchu invasion of Choson. 1627: A Manchu force crosses the Yalu River and overwhelms the Choson defenses. Injo’s court flees to Kanghwa Island. Wishing to save strength for its campaign against China, the Manchus demand allegiance but withdraw without pressing their advantage. 1631: Chong Tuwon returns from his diplomatic mission in Ming China with a number of books on astronomy and Western cul-

ture, as well as various instruments of Western invention. Although such bounty from diplomatic assignments becomes increasingly common, the Choson government remains rigid in its anti-Western policy. 1636: The Manchus again demand that Choson submit to their rule. Injo refuses, and the Manchus mount a decisive invasion of Korea. Injo swears fealty to the Manchus, who in 1644 establish the Qing dynasty (1644–1912) in China, but resentment among the Korean people toward the Manchus remains intense. 1649–1659: Reign of Hyojong. Mid-17th century–18th century: The Sirhak school of thought flourishes. Sirhak thinkers, like their counterparts in Europe’s Enlightenment, generally eschew metaphysical concerns in pursuit of a pragmatic scholarship founded upon explicit verification. Of foremost interest to Sirhak scholars is the improvement of social conditions throughout Choson. They produce a vast body of encyclopedic work on subjects as disparate as farming and Chinese classical scholarship. Perhaps the most important of Sirhak’s first adherents is Yi Ik (1681–1763); his two works Songho sasol (Discourses of Songho) and Kwagu-rok (Record of Concern for the Underprivileged) provide a comprehensive treatment of many fundamental tenets of Sirhak thought and reform. 1653: A Dutch ship wrecks off Cheju Island. Among the survivors of the wreck is Hendrik Hamel, who will produce the first account of Korea to appear in the West. A revised calendar, incorporating methods of computation gleaned from Chinese translations of Western works, is promulgated. Despite the activities of a number of distinguished Korean scholars, this is one of the only official concessions Choson makes to Western learning until the late nineteenth century. 1659–1674: Reign of Hyonjong. 1662: The Office of Embankment Works is

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established to oversee improvements on Korea’s irrigation system. 1674–1720: Reign of Sukchong. 1687–1688?: Kim Manjung publishes Kuun mong (Dream of Nine Clouds), the story of a Buddhist monk’s search for enlightenment that builds on the vernacular style of Ho Kyun. 1708: The Uniform Land Tax Law (taedongpop) is enacted. The law allows for tax payment in rice and lowers the rate to roughly one percent of an average harvest. An agency is created to oversee tax payments efficiently. A money economy subsequently emerges, and concomitantly a vital merchant class. 1720–1724: Reign of Kyongjong. 1724–1776: Reign of Yongjo. In an effort to curb factionalism among the literati, Yongjo adopts the “policy of impartiality” (t’angp’yongch’aek). The policy stipulates that official appointments should be granted in roughly equal portions to members of each of Choson’s principal Confucian factions. 1728: Kim Ch’ont’aek’s collection of sijo verse, Ch’onggu yongon (Enduring Poetry of Korea), appears. That Kim is a simple government clerk is indicative of the fact that literature is no longer the exclusive province of the leisured yangban class. 1750: Yongjo enacts the Equalized Tax Law in an effort to distribute the tax burden among artisans, merchants, and farmers. The yangban remains exempt. 1763: Kim Sujang’s collection of sijo verse, Haedong kayo (Songs of Korea), appears. Like Kim Ch’ont’aek, Kim Sujang is a government clerk and not a member of the leisured yangban class. 1770: King Yongjo commissions the Tongguk munhon pigo (Reference Compilation of Documents on Korea), an encyclopedic chronology of Korea’s geography, government, economy, and culture. 1776–1800: Reign of Chongjo. He continues the policy of impartiality. The influence of the Sirhak School reaches its height as Cho-


ngjo establishes the Kyujanggak, an institute dedicated to the fostering of scholarly work in the social sciences. 1778: An Chongbok (1712–1791) completes Tongsa kangmok (Annotated Account of Korean History), the finest example of the numerous historical studies undertaken with the Sirhak emphasis on detailed verification. 1784–1795: Christianity has been slowly spreading among Koreans—mostly from contacts with Roman Catholics in China. In 1784 three Koreans, Yi Songhun, Yi Pyok, and Kwon Ilsin start an informal Catholic church in Seoul. In 1785 Catholicism is officially banned by the government, and sporadic persecutions follow, but that year a Jesuit, Father Peter Grammont, enters Korea secretly and begins to baptize believers and ordain clergy. In 1795 a Chinese Catholic priest, Father Chu Mun-Mo, also enters Korea and is allowed to preach his faith. Catholicism survives and spreads as an underground religion. 1800–1834: Reign of Sunjo. Because Sunjo is only a boy of ten when he ascends the throne, his father-in-law Kim Chosun of the Andong Kim clan manages to assume control of the government. This begins the era of in-law government (sedo chongch’i). 1801: The Catholic Persecution of 1801. Notable Korean Catholics and the influential Chinese missionary Chou Wenmo are executed. Hwang Sayong writes his famous “silk letter” appealing to the Peking bishop for assistance. The letter, which goes so far as to suggest a large-scale invasion of Korea by Western forces, is confiscated and contributes to rising isolationist sentiment. All government slaves are freed. The institution of private slavery remains intact. 1810–1832: A number of floods damage the harvests and intensify the economic woes of Choson. The most serious disaster strikes in 1820. 1811: Hong Kyongnae, a discontented member of the yangban class who had been denied a government post, leads an uprising in


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P’yongan province. This rebellion, which lasts five months, becomes the rallying cry for a series of similar uprisings throughout the country. 1821: Korea’s first cholera epidemic ravages the country. 1832: England becomes the first Western power to request trade with Choson. A commercial vessel lands at Ch’ungch’ongdo, but departs without success. 1834–1849: Reign of Honjong. The balance of power is transferred from the Andong Kim clan to the P’ungyang Cho clan. Spring 1839: The Catholic Persecution of 1839 begins at the urging of Pyokp’a P’ungyang Cho. 1846: Three French warships anchor off Ch’ungch’ong Island. They forward a letter to Choson officials requesting commercial and diplomatic relations, but depart without having received a response. 1849–1863: Reign of Ch’olchong. Power returns to the Andong Kim clan. Mid-19th century: P’ansori, long narratives performed by a solitary singer to an outdoor audience, flourish. Text for these one-man operas grows out of the oral folk tradition. They are first transcribed into verse, then later translated into prose that is widely read by the common people. A repertoire of twelve tales (madang) develops. Sin Chaehyo (1812–1884) is the most famous composer of P’ansori. 1857: Yu Chaegon (1793–1880) compiles P’ungyo samson (Third Selection of Poems of the People). The anthology is notable for its inclusion of writers from a wide range of social classes. c. 1860: Ch’oe Cheu (1824–1864) founds the Tonghak (Eastern Learning) church. Directing its animus at bureaucratic corruption and foreign influence, the religion spreads quickly throughout the rural communities of the three southern provinces. Spring 1862–Spring 1863: A series of popular uprisings following the same pattern erupts throughout the country. The first is the Chinju area of K’yongsang province.

Here, as elsewhere, local populations fed up with the corruption of local officials attack and destroy government offices. 1863: Ch’oe Cheu, the founder of the Tonghak church, is executed at Taegu. However, his martyrdom results in an increase of Tonghak support. 1864–1907: Reign of Kojong. When he ascends to the throne Kojong is only twelve. His father, Hongson Taewon’gun, assumes control over the government as regent. Taewon’gun institutes a number of drastic reforms aimed at restoring power to the monarchy. Notably, he reestablishes the policy of appointing government positions based on merit, taxes the yangban class, and suppresses the private academies (sowon), which had done much to perpetuate factionalism. 1865–1867: Taewon’gun rebuilds Kyongbok Palace, which had been destroyed during the Hideyoshi invasion. The reconstruction puts an enormous strain on Choson’s failing economy. Early 1866: Taewon’gun launches another persecution of Catholicism; this continues for almost ten years. 1866: The American trading ship General Sherman attempts to navigate the Taedong River to P’yongyang but is burned by a mob of local people. All aboard are killed in the incident. 1866: The “Foreign Disturbance of 1866.” Seeking retribution for the executions of several French missionaries, Admiral Pierre Roze leads seven French warships in an attack on Kanghwa Island. After encountering resistance from Korean troops under the command of Yang Honsu, the French withdraw. 1866: Yi Hangno (1792–1868) resigns as royal secretary and presents a memorial to the throne giving the first cogent expression to the conservative anti-Western, anti-Japanese forces that had long influenced government policy. 1871: Taewon’gun closes all but forty-seven private academies (sowon). 1871: The “Foreign Disturbance of 1871.”

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The U.S. government reacts to the General Sherman incident by sending Rear Admiral John Rogers on a mission to attack the Korean stronghold at Kangwha Island. The American troops retreat after sustaining heavy losses. 1873: Facing heavy pressure from the emergent Min family and disgruntled Confucian officials, Taewon’gun resigns as regent. Korea’s strict isolationist policy is consequently eased. 1875: Japan sends the warship Unyoto Kangwha with the express purpose of generating a conflict that will stand as a justification for a future invasion. Korean troops at Ch’ojiin play into Japan’s hand by firing on the ship. February 1876: Kuroda Kiyotaka of Japan leads a force of two warships and three troop transports to Kangwha, ostensibly to seek reparation for the Unyoto incident of 1875. He negotiates the unequal Treaty of Kangwha (sometimes called the Treaty of Friendship). This agreement allows for Japanese settlements on the Korean peninsula, stipulates that Pusan and two other ports are to be opened for trade with Japan, and recognizes Korea’s autonomy in the interest of removing China’s claim to the peninsula. It also guarantees the safety of foreign (Christian) missionaries and allows them to engage in proselytizing. 1876: The Kagok wollyu appears. This anthology of Korean poetry, compiled by Pak Hyogwan and An Minyong, contains primarily sijo verse. 1880: Kim Koengjip (1842–1896) returns from Japan. He carries with him two treatises written by Chinese authors, Chao Xian Ce Lye (A Policy for Korea) and Yi Yan (Presumptuous Views). These works help generate support for a more open foreign policy. Enlightenment entails not only learning the advanced skills of others but also preserving what is good and admirable in one’s own society. Soyu kyonmun (Travels in the West), by Yu Kilchun (1880s)


1882: The Military Mutiny of 1882 (imo kul-

lan), an attempt by conservative forces to check reform and reinstall Taewon’gun as regent, fails miserably. The Japanese demand indemnity for casualties and damages incurred by uncontrolled soldiers and negotiate the unequal Treaty of Chemulp’o (Inch’on). The Chinese capitalize on the internal chaos by sending 4,500 troops to reassert suzerainty. Taewon’gun is driven from power. Later this year, under Chinese pressure to thwart a Japanese trade monopoly, Choson signs trade agreements with the United States and Germany. 1884: Trade agreements are reached with England, Italy, and Russia. The first Protestant missionary arrives in Korea. December 4, 1884: Progressive forces in the government led by Kim Okkyun and assisted by the Japanese minister, Takezoe Shinichiro, stage a coup d’e´tat. Their efforts fail as Chinese troops storm Seoul and restore Kojong to the throne. April 18, 1885: China and Japan sign the Convention of Tientsin, which provides for the removal of all foreign troops from Korean soil. However, the Chinese commander, Yuan Shi-kai, remains in Seoul and continues to exert Chinese influence on foreign and domestic policy. 1885–1887: British forces occupy Komun Island off the southern coast of Cholla in an attempt to check Russia’s growing influence in Korea. The British abandon their encampments only after receiving a formal pledge from Russia that it will seize no Korean territories. 1886: A trade agreement is reached with France. 1889: Yu Kilchun writes Soyu kyonmun (Observations on a Journey to the West). The book advocates Korea’s modernization in emulation of the West. February 1894–June 1894: Adherents of the Tonghak church rebel. The uprising begins in Kobu but quickly gains momentum and develops into a full-scale rebellion. Unable


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to suppress the peasant army, the Choson government applies to China for aid. It is quickly granted. Japan also sends troops. The Tonghak troops disperse as the government agrees to accept their proposed reforms. July 25, 1894–April 1895: Sino-Japanese War. Again, China and Japan square off to capitalize on Korea’s internal disorder. The Japanese emerge victorious and in the Treaty of Shimonoseki China repudiates its suzerainty over Korea. July 26, 1894: The Deliberative Council (Kun’guk Kimuch’o) is formed under the direction of the Japanese. Kim Hongjip assumes a leadership role as the council initiates a number of reforms that radically restructure Korean government and society. A cabinet is installed with a prime minister overseeing seven ministries, the palace apparatus is separated from the administrative government, legal distinctions between yangban and commoners are erased, the eight provinces are divided into twenty-three prefectures, a Western-style judicial system is instituted, and the silver standard is adopted. Despite the good effects of these sweeping reforms, the fact they are enacted at the direction of the Japanese causes considerable resentment among the Korean people. A conspicuous defect of the reform package is its lack of attention to the improvement of Korea’s military. October 1894–January 1895: Loyal members of the Tonghak movement rise against Japanese troops throughout the country. The rebellion is effectively suppressed, but resentment of Japanese hegemony remains strong. January 7, 1895: Fourteen articles entitled Hongbom (Guiding Principles for the Nation) are read at the Royal Ancestral Shrine in Seoul. These articles, sometimes referred to as Korea’s first constitution, confirm the process of reform initiated in 1894 by the Deliberative Council. October 8, 1895: In an effort to silence the pro-Russian faction within Korea’s govern-

ment, the Japanese minister, Miura Goro, organizes the assassination of Queen Min. King Kojong flees to the Russian legation, where he remains until February 20, 1897. April 7, 1896: So Chaep’il’s newspaper Tongnip Sinmum (The Independent) runs its first edition. Several days later So Chaep’il founds Tongnip Hyophoe (Independence Club), an organization dedicated to the fostering of Korean national sentiment. 1897–1904: In an effort to compete economically with Japan and thereby increase its independence, Korea rapidly industrializes. Textiles are the principle manufacture. Korea also attempts to gain control of its railroad construction, but ultimately lacks the capital. August 1897: At the urging of So Chaep’il, Kojong changes the name of Choson to Taehan Cheguk, meaning “the Korean empire,” and proclaims himself emperor. July 1903: Russians cross the Yalu River at Yongamp’o and start a settlement. February 1904–September 1905: Russo-Japanese War. Korea proclaims its neutrality, in spite of which Japan deploys troops in Seoul. July 1905: The United States recognizes Japan’s claim to Korea in Taft-Katsura Agreement. England follows with its recognition a month later. September 5, 1905: Russia and Japan sign the Treaty of Portsmouth to end the Russo-Japanese War. The treaty acknowledges Japan’s interests in Korea. November 17, 1905: The Japanese force Korean officials to sign the so-called Protectorate Treaty, which stipulates that all foreign policy is to be controlled by Japanese officials residing in Korea. 1906: Yi Injik publishes Hyol ui nu (Tears of Blood). Written in Han’gol and depicting contemporary life, this work is the first of the so-called New Novels, which are to propel Korea’s literary tradition away from antiquated themes and styles. 1907: An Ch’angho founds the Sinminhoe

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(New People’s Association) for the promotion of Korean independence. June 1907: Kojong sends Yi Sangsol, Yi Chun, and Yi Wijong to the second Hague Peace Conference to protest Japan’s usurpation of the Korean government. The Korean officials fail to gain any official support for their cause. July 19, 1907: Angered at his gambit to curry international favor, the Japanese replace Kojong with his son Sunjong. This action sparks a series of anti-Japanese demonstrations. August 1, 1907: Japan dissolves the Korean military.


1909: The Bank of Korea is established under

Japanese directorship. 1909: Yi Songman (eventually to be known

to the world at large as Syngman Rhee) founds the Kungminhoe, or Korean National Association, in Hawaii. October 26, 1909: An Chunggon assassinates Ito Hirobumi, the Japanese diplomat who engineered the Japanese takeover. August 22, 1910: Japan’s resident-general forces Prime Minister Yi Wanyong to sign an annexation treaty. August 29, 1910: Sunjong abdicates and announces Korea’s submission to Japan.

J A PA N E S E O C C U PAT I O N : 1 9 1 0 – 1 9 4 5 Japan establishes a colonial government headed by a governor-general and institutes a number of oppressive measures that deny all freedoms of speech and close many private schools. The remaining schools are forced to adopt a curriculum that ignores the Korean language and history and teaches the Japanese language instead. Korea’s economy and infrastructure improve dramatically at this time, but the benefits of these improvements accrue primarily to the Japanese. Although overt resistance to the Japanese is punishable by imprisonment or death, resentment to colonial rule remains strong. Various underground national groups spring up. On March 1, 1919, Korea’s independence movement erupts in nationwide protest. The Japanese act swiftly and violently, killing and imprisoning thousands of unarmed demonstrators. A month after the rebellion, Korean exiles in Shanghai declare a provisional government. Resistance to Japanese rule continues, but to no avail. In 1931 Japan establishes the puppet state of Manchukuo and readies for an all-out campaign against the Chinese. Consequently, programs of forced assimilation and exploitation of Korean labor and natural resources intensify. When World War II begins, Koreans are soon conscripted to fight for the Japanese. Eventually, it becomes clear that Japan is fighting a war it cannot win. The Allied nations guarantee the independence of Korea in the so-called Cairo Declaration of December 1943. On August 8, 1945, the Soviet Union declares war on Japan and sweeps through Manchuria and northern Korea. On August 15, 1945, Japan surrenders. 1912: The Japanese promulgate the land sur-

vey law, which accelerates and gives legal justification to the process, begun in 1876, of annexing Korean land. The law stipulates that land must be registered with the Land Survey Bureau or be confiscated. Because many Koreans never hear of the law or simply fail to register with it, the government is able to confiscate a large quantity of land

which it then sells extremely cheaply to Japanese. 1917: Korean activists in exile in China attend the International Socialist Congress in Stockholm and the World Conference of Small Nations in New York to promote the cause of Korean independence. March 1, 1919: A nationwide, nonviolent demonstration is carried out in accordance


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with the meticulous plan of a group of some thirty patriots led by Son Pyonghoi, Yi Songhun, and Han Yongun. The demonstration begins at Seoul’s T’aehwagwan Restaurant, where the group formally promulgates a “Declaration of Independence,” and then spreads quickly throughout the city. Similar demonstrations in other cities get under way at the same time. The Japanese, alarmed at the scale of the movement, launch a fullscale military attack. An estimated two million people take part in 1,500 separate gatherings; according to Japanese estimates 7,509 are killed, 15,961 are injured, and 46,948 are arrested. Korean estimates are much higher. April 1919: Although the March First Movement fails, exiles create the Taehan Minguk Imsi Chongbu (provisional government of the Republic of Korea) in Shanghai. Syngman Rhee assumes the presidency. 1919–1922: The founding of a number of literary magazines, notably Ch’angjo (Creation), P’yeho (Ruins), and Paekcho (White Tide), gives rise to a new literary movement. Works of this era are characterized by a direct tone and attention to life’s mundane aspects. 1920: Japan’s new governor-general, Saito Makoto, institutes a number of reforms known collectively as the Bunka Seiji (Cultural Policy). These reforms allow greater freedom to assemble, and ease restrictions on the press and Korean businesses. Saito also increases the size of the police force, and reorganizes Japan’s colonial government for greater efficiency. May 1922: Yi Kwangsu publishes Minjok Kaejoron (A Treatise on National Reconstruction), arguing for a patient approach in Korea’s independence struggle. 1923: Discrimination against Koreans erupts in Japan’s Kanto region. Amid the panic caused by a major earthquake, Japanese accuse Koreans of poisoning drinking wells. As many as seven thousand Koreans are murdered in retribution for this imagined crime.

April 1926: Sunjong, Korea’s last sovereign,


Filled with the color of grass, compounded Of green laughter and green sorrow, Limping along, I walk all day as if possessed by the spring devil: But now these are stolen fields, and even our spring will be taken. “Does Spring Come to Stolen Fields?” by Yi Sanghwa (1926)

June 10, 1926: The June 10 Independence

Demonstration. As the funeral procession for Sunjong marches through Seoul, large crowds gather. Among the mourners are many students who shout anti-Japanese slogans and pass out pamphlets. Two hundred students are arrested. 1929: The workers of Wonsan go on a general strike to protest Japanese exploitation. As support for the workers spreads throughout the country, the Japanese are forced to compromise. November 1929: The Kwangju Student Movement. The incident begins when a group of male Japanese students harasses three Korean girls. Several Korean boys lash out at the Japanese, and street fighting quickly escalates. The Japanese police intervene and arrest as many as four hundred Korean students. This incites further violence and the movement spreads to surrounding areas. 1,642 students are arrested before the violence subsides. 1931: Having established the puppet state of Manchukuo, Japan prepares to enlarge the scope of its territorial ambitions. One such preparation is increased investment in Korea’s industrial development. Eventually, Korea’s labor and natural resources will become an integral part of Japan’s war machine. 1939: The magazine Literature appears. Work published in this periodical is characterized

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by an attention to refined language and an avoidance of political themes. December 7, 1941: On the day of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Korean provisional government led by Syngman Rhee declares war on Japan and begins its diplomatic campaign to garner foreign support. The Kwangbokkun (Restoration Army) is raised to aid Allied troops in their Asian operations. December 1, 1943: The Allied powers proclaim their intention to liberate Korea from Japanese control in the so-called Cairo Declaration. August 8, 1945: Aware of Japan’s imminent defeat, and hoping to share in the spoils of


victory in the Asian theater, the Soviet Union declares war on Japan. Soviet troops storm into Korea and occupy much of the north. August 11, 1945: General Order Number 1 is drafted by the United States outlining the terms of the Japanese surrender in Korea. The order stipulates that Japanese forces north of the 38th parallel are to surrender to Soviet commanders, whereas those forces south of the parallel are to surrender to the United States. August 15, 1945: Japan surrenders to the Allies and in so doing acknowledges Korea’s autonomy.

A DIVIDED KOREA: 1945–1998 As the United States and the Soviet Union take their positions on either side of the 38th parallel, efforts to come up with a proposal for Korea’s unification continue (with the conspicuous absence of a Korean delegation). When negotiations freeze, the United States-dominated United Nations and the Soviet Union square off, with each proclaiming the government of their respective spheres of influence the only legitimate government on the peninsula. U.S. and Soviet troops withdraw throughout 1948 and 1949. On June 25, 1950, the North Korean army invades South Korea. The United States quickly puts together a UN coalition army headed by General Douglas MacArthur. The Chinese become involved late in 1951, and by 1952 there is a stalemate on the 38th parallel. A peace treaty is signed on July 23, 1953, but Korea remains a divided country. The promise of a democratic government in South Korea is never truly fulfilled as throughout the latter half of this century a succession of autocratic rulers manipulates a weak legislative body. The pattern is established by South Korea’s first president Syngman Rhee and continues through Roh Tae Woo (No T’ae-u). Not until the election of Kim Young Sam in 1992 does South Korea begin to show signs of becoming a more democratic government and one eventually willing to deal with North Korea. North Korea, meanwhile, becomes one of the world’s most closed nations. In 1966, after vacillating between Chinese and Russian influence, it declares itself independent and proceeds to forge its own domestic policy, characterized by reckless military spending. Kim Il Sung (1912–1994) rules until 1994 when power passes to his son, Kim Jong Il. Already barely limping by with its economic and agricultural output, North Korea is on the edge of collapsing by 1997, when the international community takes steps to buttress it, with the hope that North Korea may begin to change its ways. September 8, 1945: U.S. forces reach Seoul.

In accordance with the terms of General Order Number 1 (August 11, 1945), Soviet and

U.S. forces administer two zones of occupation divided by the 38th parallel. December 1945: By the terms of the Moscow Conference, the United States, Britain,


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China, and the Soviet Union agree to govern Korea as a trusteeship for up to five years. A U.S.-Soviet Joint Commission is created to work out the terms of a unified Korean government. News of the trusteeship touches off mass protests in Korea. March–May 1946, May–August 1947: The U.S.-Soviet Joint Commission meets, but fails to come up with a proposal for Korea’s unification. The main point of contention concerns parties unfavorable to the trusteeship. The Soviets insist on barring such parties from participation in the government; the United States insists on their inclusion. September 1946: The United Nations accepts the U.S. proposal calling for general elections in Korea. May 10, 1948: The UN Temporary Commission on Korea oversees elections in South Korea. The Soviets bar the commission from entering the north. July 20, 1948: Syngman Rhee is elected South Korea’s first president. August 15, 1948: The Republic of Korea (ROK) is inaugurated in the south. August 25, 1948: Elections for North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly are held. September 3, 1948: The constitution of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is ratified by the Supreme People’s Assembly in P’yongyang. Kim Il Sung is appointed premier. Six days later the new government is announced. October 12, 1948: The USSR recognizes the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as the sole lawful government in Korea and begins to withdraw its troops. November 1948: Rhee passes the National Security Law through the National Assembly. The law prohibits any seditious organizations, and becomes a powerful tool for the despotic Rhee, particularly in his efforts to weed out Communists in South Korea. December 12, 1948: The UN General Assembly recognizes South Korea’s National Assembly as the only lawful government in Korea.

1949: Kim Il Sung becomes chairman of the

Korean Workers Party. June 1949: The United States withdraws its

troops from the peninsula, leaving behind only advisors to an undertrained and undermanned South Korean army. June 25, 1950: North Korean troops launch a full-scale invasion of South Korea. With vastly superior weapons, and greatly outnumbering the South Korean army, the DPRK forces reach Seoul within three days. June 26, 1950: The UN Security Council condemns the invasion and calls on its members to provide support in an effort to restore peace. This is tantamount to a declaration of war. The following day President Truman orders U.S. troops into action. U.S. forces land in Korea on July 4 and establish a defensive perimeter behind the Naktong River. September 15, 1950: The commander of the UN troops, U.S. General Douglas MacArthur, begins his counterattack with an amphibious landing on Inch’on. The UN forces quickly push DPRK troops back to the 38th parallel. October 7, 1950: The UN approves a resolution to permit an invasion of North Korea. UN forces take P’yongyang on October 20 and by October 26 reach the Manchurian border at the Yalu River. Late November 1950: The Chinese intervene on behalf of the routed DPRK. They cross the Yalu River and launch a massive counteroffensive. By the end of 1952 an estimated 1,200,000 Chinese troops are involved in the fighting. January 4, 1951: Seoul falls to the ChineseDPRK alliance. March 1951: UN troops regain Seoul on March 14 and by March 31 have pushed Chinese and North Korean troops back to the 38th parallel in many sectors. A stalemate ensues. The major parties begin to work for a cease-fire. 1951: Rhee creates the Liberal Party. July 10, 1951: The first meeting of the dele-

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gates from the United States, South Korea, and North Korea takes place at Kaesong. These meetings will continue for another two years without results. 1952: Rhee forces the National Assembly to relinquish its power to elect the president. This is the first of several attempts by Rhee to frustrate democratic processes in an effort to assume a dictatorial control of the government. July 27, 1953: An armistice ending the Korean War is signed in P’anmunjom. Basically the two Koreas return to the status quo in terms of a boundary, only now it is a heavily armed no-man’s land. As called for by the armistice, representatives of the warring parties commence meetings to effect a true peace treaty, but as of 1998 they are unsuccessful. 1954: The National Assembly, now dominated by partisans of Rhee’s Liberal Party, passes a measure excluding the present incumbent only from the presidential twoterm limit outlined in the constitution. 1956–1966: The Sino-Soviet conflict causes confusion in North Korea’s foreign and domestic policy. Ultimately, Kim Il Sung adopts a neutral stance, maintaining the independence of North Korea with respect to its feuding Communist neighbors. December 24, 1958: Having put all opposition members of the National Assembly under restraint, Rhee’s Liberal Party passes a bill to widen the application of the National Security Law and to amend the Local SelfGovernment Law to allow for Rhee’s government to appoint heads of the local administrations. August 1959: Cho Pongam, a popular socialist candidate for the presidency, is executed for supposed violations of the National Security Law. The execution takes place eight months before the 1960 presidential elections. March 15, 1960: The day of the presidential elections a large student demonstration takes place in Masan. The students vehemently


protest the blatant acts of election rigging undertaken by Rhee’s Liberal Party. The police fire into the crowd, killing or wounding as many as a hundred demonstrators. April 11, 1960: The body of a high school student is found in Masan harbor. Apparently the student was killed in the demonstration of March 15, and the body was deposited in the bay in order to avoid scandal. The discovery provokes more demonstrations. April 18–26, 1960: The April Revolution. On April 18 student demonstrators in Seoul are beaten by government agents. The following day a throng of students flood into downtown Seoul and are fired upon by police. This incites more protest. On April 25 demonstrations reach their peak. When martial law troops refuse to fire upon the demonstrators, Rhee is forced to resign; he goes into exile in Hawaii. June 15, 1960: A new constitution instituting a bicameral parliament is promulgated. South Korea’s Second Republic begins. July 29, 1960: The Korean people vote the Democratic Party to a majority in both houses. The assembly subsequently elects Yun Poson as president. 1961: The Kim regime in North Korea adopts the first of three Seven-Year Plans to revitalize a sagging economy. May 16, 1961: Kim Jong Pil and Park Chung Hoi engineer a military coup in South Korea. Park establishes the Supreme Council for National Reconstruction (SCNR), a military junta over which he presides. December 1962: Martial law is lifted and a constitutional referendum passes, allowing for a popularly elected president. This is known as South Korea’s Third Republic. October 15, 1963: Park Chung Hoi is elected South Korea’s president. Late 1960s: Kim Il Sung strengthens North Korea’s military. 1968: North Korea seizes the U.S. electronic intelligence-gathering ship Pueblo and imprisons its crew for eleven months. September 14, 1969: Park’s Democratic Re-


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publican Party, dominating the National Assembly, passes a constitutional amendment allowing Park to seek a third term in 1971. 1969: Pak Kyongni publishes her multivolume novel T’oji (Land). The bleak autumn wind whispered past the eaves of the shrine, the leaves rustled as they rubbed together, a nightingale cried like an elderly spinster and an owl like the ghost of an old bachelor, while the figure of the Buddha— was it no more than a lump of metal melted by a craftsman and mindlessly poured into a mold?—never spoke but only smiled. T’oji (Land), by Pak Kyongni (1969)

October 17, 1972: Park proclaims martial law,

dissolves the National Assembly, and suspends the constitution. November 21, 1972: The Yusin Constitution is approved by public referendum. This Fourth Republic of South Korea allows for almost total control of the government by a president who is not popularly elected and who is able to appoint one-third of the National Assembly. This president is Park himself. October 26, 1979: Kim Jae Kyu, head of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, leads a group of men who assassinate Park and several of his guards and close associates. Choi Kyu Hah becomes the acting president and declares martial law. In December he is elected to office, promising reform. After their trial and appeals, Kim Jae Kyu and four of his accomplices are hanged on May 24, 1980. May 14–27, 1980: A series of strikes and riots mainly arising from economic dissatisfaction have occurred around South Korea in March and April and led to increasing violence. By the first of May, the unrest has turned into political protests against the government led by students. On May 13 students at Seoul University launch a march that leads to several days of pitched battles

with the police, leaving hundreds injured. On May 17 martial law is extended across the country, and on May 18 dissident leaders Kim Dae Jung and Kim Chong Pil are arrested. This leads on May 19 to a popular uprising in Kwangju (about 165 miles south of Seoul); on May 27 troops move in and crush the uprising; the government claims that only 144 civilians have been killed, but others claim at least 475 dead. August 27, 1980: After a series of maneuvers to control the military and other vital organs of the Korean government, such as the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, former general Chon Tuhwan is elected president by the National Council for Unification. He will be elected to the presidency by a nationwide balloting on February 11, 1981. September 17, 1980: Kim Dae Jung, a longtime leader of the opposition to the nondemocratic governments of South Korea, is found guilty of sedition and sentenced to death. On January 23, 1981, this sentence is commuted to life imprisonment; he goes into exile in the United States in December 1982, but returns to Korea in February 1985. Although under house arrest, he will continue to lead the opposition to the government. October 10–14, 1980: At a congress of the Korean Workers Party, Kim Il Sung appoints his son Kim Jong Il to three powerful party posts. October 22, 1980: A new constitution is approved, ushering in Korea’s Fifth Republic. Under the new constitution, a president is elected to one seven-year term. October 9, 1983: During President Chon’s visit to Burma, a bomb is set off in Rangoon, killing six high-ranking South Korean government officials, three Burmese journalists, and ten other South Koreans. (The bomb was clearly intended for Chon, who was delayed in arriving at the site.) North Korea is widely believed to be responsible for the bombing (and this will later be confirmed). October 27, 1987: South Korea’s sixth consti-

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tution is approved by national referendum; among other reforms, it limits the president’s term to five years. November 29, 1987: A South Korean Airliner is destroyed, presumably by a bomb, over the Thai-Burmese border. North Korea is widely held responsible for the event. December 16, 1987: Factional strife amid the opposition and possible acts of vote-rigging lead to the election of Roh Tae Woo (No T’ae-u), a former general associated with corruption and crackdowns on dissidents. He will assume office on February 25, 1988. Summer 1988: Seoul hosts the Olympic Games. January 20, 1988: The United States imposes sanctions on North Korea for its alleged terrorist activities. December 18, 1992: Kim Young Sam, a former dissident, is elected president of South Korea. He is sworn in on February 25, 1993. Spring 1994: After months of crisis following reports of North Korea’s nuclear program, North and South Korean leaders agree to hold an historic summit meeting on July 25. The meeting, however does not take place due the death of North Korea’s Kim Il Sung. July 8, 1994: Kim Il Sung dies. His son, Kim Jong Il, assumes day-to-day control of the country’s government. June 13, 1995: A multinational consortium, led by the United States, and North Korea announce the details of an agreement first reached in October 1994: North Korea will freeze its nuclear-weapons program in return for which it will get two nuclear reactors, made in South Korea, and supplies of fuel oil from the United States and its allies. May 30, 1995: A South Korean fishing trawler strays into North Korean waters and its fiveman crew is taken prisoner. They are not released until December 30, by which time South Korea has announced it will suspend all aid until North Korea changes its behavior. June–July 1995: Exceptionally heavy floods


are threatening the already shaky agriculture production of North Korea. June 21, 1995: North Korea for the first time officially agrees to accept South Korea’s offer of rice, thereby admitting it is having serious trouble feeding its 22 million people. August 1995: Floods have by now devastated the grain crop in North Korea, leaving at least 100,000 homeless and causing billions of dollars in damage. March 11–August 26, 1996: On March 11, two former presidents, Chon Tuhwan and Roh Tae Woo, are placed on trial for seizing power by violence in 1979, for financial corruption, and for their role in suppressing the prodemocracy movement. On August 26, they will be found guilty; Chon is sentenced to death and Roh is sentenced to 22.5 years in prison. On December 22, 1997, they are pardoned and released. April 4–7, 1996: On April 4 North Korea suddenly announces it will no longer respect the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas. On April 5–7 North Korea sends troops into the zone to conduct military exercises clearly designed to taunt South Korean and U.S. forces stationed at the border. On May 14, the United States and Japan announce that they will cease sending any more food to aid North Korea. Summer 1996: North Korea’s economy deteriorates and its food crisis grows worse; it is believed that a serious famine now threatens North Korea, but it continues to act belligerently. Mid-August 1996: Nine days of riots by mostly students in South Korea demanding reunification with North Korea leave one policeman dead and about one thousand students and police injured. September 18, 1996: A North Korean submarine is found abandoned where it ran aground on the coast of South Korea; eventually twenty-four of its crew and passengers are killed, and one is captured alive. Although North Korea insists that this was an accident on a training exercise, it is fairly


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certain that many of the North Koreans were infiltrators assigned to spy on South Korea. December 30, 1996: The U.S. government announces that for the first time North Korea is agreeing to meet with U.S. and South Korean delegates to bring about a permanent peace settlement to the Korean War. February–April 1997: By February, North Korea is publicly admitting that it has only about half the grain it needs to feed its people; by April it reaches a new agreement with the United States, which will supply much of the grain needed. August 5–7, 1997: After several delays, the first preliminary peace talks between North Korean, the United States, South Korea, and China are held in New York City; they break off over disagreements but the first true peace talks finally are held in Geneva, Switzerland, on December 9–10. December 1997: The “Asian flu”—the financial and economic crisis that has been sweeping through Asia since July—takes its toll in South Korea, the eleventh largest economy in the world. Some of its largest industries are declaring bankruptcy, the stock market is collapsing, unemployment is rising. On December 3 the International Monetary Fund agrees to grant South Korea a $57 billion loan to help salvage its econ-

omy, but this comes too late for the largest of its state-owned banks, which on December 11 announces it is postponing its effort to raise $2 billion to pay its debts. December 18, 1997: In elections held under the shadow of a collapsing economy, Kim Dae Jung, the longtime leader of the prodemocracy movement, is elected president. Even before he is sworn in on February 25, 1998, he calls for talks with Kim Jong Il of North Korea. March 16–21, 1998: North Korea and South Korea attend the second session of the peace talks at Geneva. The results are inconclusive. June 6–14, 1998: President Kim Dae Jung visits the United States, in part to win support for his government’s policy of reconciliation with North Korea; he will try to convince the U.S. Congress to lift its economic sanctions but he gets no solid commitment. August 31, 1998: North Korea launches a ballistic missile that crosses over Japan’s territory before falling into the Pacific Ocean. North Korea claims this was a multistage rocket intended to put a satellite in orbit, but no tracking station can locate a new satellite. Although North Korea is charged with a provocative and aggressive act, it is gradually accepted that this may well have been a failed launch.


P R E H I S T O R I C T A I WA N : 1 0 , 0 0 0

B.C. –A.D.


During what geologists call the Pleistocene Age (roughly 1.75 million years ago to 10,000 b.c.), the falling and rising of the world’s sea levels left Taiwan alternately connected to and isolated from the mainland of China. Although early hominids (Homo erectus) are establishing themselves in parts of China during most of this time, for whatever reason none of these appear to move onto Taiwan until near the end of this period. Some scientists claim to find signs of human presence on Taiwan as early as 50,000 b.c.; if this is so, these hominids (possibly archaic Homo sapiens) get there by walking across a land bridge when the sea level is low. The first undisputed signs of hominids’ occupation of Taiwan date from c. 10,000 b.c., by which time they are full-fledged Homo sapiens. By at least 6000 b.c. the sea level has risen to its present level, leaving Taiwan completely isolated from the mainland and with essentially its presentday physical characteristics. Sometime thereafter—at least by about 4000 b.c.—new groups of Southern Mongoloids begin to move over to Taiwan; the main theory is that they come from southern China, although others believe that they come from the islands or mainland of Southeast Asia. In any case, from this point on the inhabitants of Taiwan pass through the cultural phases similar to those throughout East and Southeast Asia—specifically, those classed under Neolithic. Meanwhile, by at least 2800 b.c. some inhabitants of Taiwan appear to move out via boats to settle other Pacific islands, first the Philippines and then Indonesia. As a result, Taiwan remains receptive to some of the foods and other artifacts imported from their relatives around Southeast Asia and the Pacific. Taiwan, however, remains something of a backwater culture in relation to other places throughout East and Southeast Asia. Although there are legendary claims to Chinese contacts with Taiwan during the first millennium a.d., not until about a.d. 1000 will a new infusion of Chinese begin to pull Taiwan into the mainstream of Asian history.


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10,000–3000 B . C .: Flaked pebble tools found

at a few sites in southern and eastern Taiwan are classed as belonging to the Ch’angpinian culture (after the site on Taiwan where they are first found). Some experts regard them as similar to those of the Hoabinhian culture found throughout Southeast Asia, named after the site of Hoabinh in northern Vietnam, where the first of these distinctive tools are found. These first Taiwanese may come from the Chinese mainland opposite (about 115 miles distant) or from the Malay Peninsula or Indonesia, but little definite is known about them or how they got there; it is possible that they are the ancestors of at least some of the so-called aborigines who live on Taiwan through the twentieth century. 4500–2500 B . C .: During this period, Southern Mongoloid people make their way to Taiwan in canoes or small boats. Their exact point of origin is not certain; most likely they come from somewhere in southern China, but possibly they come from the region of Indonesia or the Malay peninsula. They speak what some label an Austric language, ancestral to the various Austronesian languages later spoken throughout much of Asia. On Taiwan they remain somewhat isolated, but they carry over the Neolithic culture that has been developing on the mainland—pottery, domesticated animals (dogs and pigs), and a diversity of tools. Although mainly relying on hunting, fishing, and the gathering of available wild foods, they may also engage in some agriculture, for by this time many Chinese are cultivating millet and rice. They also make canoes and wooden houses. During their time on Taiwan, this people’s language evolves into what is sometimes classed as proto-Austronesian. 4000–2500 B . C .: On Taiwan, the most defined culture of this period is called the Ta-p’enk’eng; it is distinguished by cord-marked and incised pottery and stone adzes; other finds

that reveal some of their activities include stone net sinkers (indicative of fishing) and possibly a stone bark-cloth beater. Although some believe that the Taiwanese are cultivating millet and rice by at least 3000 b.c., there is no firm evidence for this, and stone reaping knives do not appear on Taiwan until about 2500 b.c. 3000–1500 B . C .: Some of the Austronesian people on Taiwan apparently begin to move outward, first to the Philippines and eastern Indonesia; by 1500 b.c. Austronesians are moving on to western Indonesia and Malaya and eastward to the Micronesian islands of the Pacific; by 500 b.c. they are moving still farther eastward into Polynesian islands of the Pacific. (The Austronesian speakers who remain on Taiwan are the ancestors of the 330,000 or so aboriginal peoples such as the Atayls, Amis, and Paiwans of present-day Taiwan.) 2500–500 B . C .: By 2000 b.c. the Austronesians on Taiwan are definitely cultivating such crops as millet, gourd, sugarcane, and rice. They are also becoming differentiated into several variant regional cultures, with distinctive types of pottery, adzes, projectile points, reaping knives, and houses. These cultures include the Fengpitou, the Yuanshan, and the T’ai-yuan. The numerous clay spindle whorls found indicate they make cloth. 1500–800 B . C .: One of the most ambitious sites on Taiwan of this period is at Peinan, in eastern Taiwan, where remains of a quite advanced village are found: the foundations of fifty houses with adjacent storehouses, fifteen hundred burials indicating great concern for ancestors, and fine pottery, spindle whorls, bark-cloth beaters, and fine jewelry. 1500–500 B . C .: The Austronesian people based on Taiwan (and by now also dispersed into the Philippines and Indonesia) are now engaged in a basic maritime trading economy; their navigational skills apparently en-

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able them to move back and forth—they have added a sail to their canoe. Meanwhile, the one-time “colonists” are now introducing crops in Taiwan—domesticated chicken, coconut, breadfruit, yam, taro, banana, sago, and betel nuts (for chewing). The Taiwanese, however, still get much of their sustenance from millet and rice. 500 B . C . – A . D . 265: Little is known about Taiwan during this period. In Chinese records of the centuries before the Han dynasty (206 b.c.–a.d. 222), it is referred to as “the land of Yangchow.” During the time of China’s Han dynasty and the Three Kingdoms a.d. 222–265), it is called Yinchow. In any case, the Chinese of this time do not regard Taiwan as part of China, culturally or politically. c. A . D . 230: Later Chinese historical records claim that a Chinese emperor Sun Quan sends a ten thousand-member expeditionary force to an island that may be Taiwan; in any case, nothing comes of it. Modern China will lay claim to Taiwan on the basis of this alleged expedition, but there is no official territorial claim in ancient Chinese records. 605–610: During the Sui dynasty (589–618) a Chinese emperor sends three small expeditions or missions to an island also believed to be Taiwan. Although some information


and artifacts (and several aborigines) are brought back to China, the Chinese do not appear to follow through with any political or military measures. Again, though, modern China will lay claim to Taiwan on the basis of these expeditions. The moon is shining. On the back of the pine tree. The goose carries water, the duck washes vegetables, The cook grinds grain, The dog steps in the pestle, The fox makes fire, the cat fries food, The tiger goes into the mountain, And drags down firewood; The hen cares for the house, Carries home my little sister Traditional Hakka song

611–1000: Little is known about Taiwan dur-

ing these centuries. Chinese records later refer to aborigines making raids on villages on the Chinese coast opposite, but nothing definite is known of what may be simply isolated acts of marauders. But it is not at all unlikely that some Chinese are making their way to Taiwan at least by the end of this period.

CHINESE AND FOREIGNERS MOVE IN: 1000–1683 The Taiwanese aborigines are pushed further into the mountains by Japanese and Chinese pirates and increasing numbers of migrants from mainland China. By the eleventh century, Hakka people, originally from the south of China near Hong Kong, have established substantial communities. Starting around the thirteenth century they are displaced from choice land by the arrival of the Fujian Chinese. The Mongol-Yuan dynasty in China, hoping eventually to conquer Japan, orders a series of expeditions to southeastern China opposite Taiwan and establishes a base on the Pescadores Islands, which lie between the Chinese coast and Taiwan. As trade develops throughout the Asian region from the sixteenth century, the island arouses the interest of Westerners. The Dutch wrest control of Taiwan from the Spanish, and rule the island as a Dutch colony. Significant Chinese settlement occurs under the Dutch, who require migrant laborers, farmers, and traders. The Dutch rule for almost four decades until they are defeated by the forces of Zheng Chenggong. Although there are some economic and social


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advances under the Cheng family’s rule, dissension in the house of Cheng leads to a Manchu invasion. By this time there are an estimated 100,000 Chinese on Taiwan. 960–1279: The Song dynasty in China. There

is little imperial interest in the Taiwan area, although it seems that Taiwanese aborigines make foraging raids along the Chinese coast. Hakka (meaning “guest”) people living in southeastern China migrate to the Taiwan island. By around 1111 there are about a thousand Hakka settlements in southern Taiwan. The origins of the Hakka are obscure; they have been living in the region around Hong Kong where they retained a language and culture distinct from the Chinese. The Hakka tend to drive the aborigines back into the mountains (and later Chinese will call them Gaoshan, high mountains). Meanwhile, by the thirteenth century Chinese from Fujian, across the Taiwan Straits, are also beginning to come over to Taiwan. 1280–1368: The Yuan dynasty in China. These Mongol rulers with expansionist aims grow increasingly interested in the mainland and islands opposite Taiwan. In particular, the Yuan are interested in the P’eng-hu archipelago (the modern Western name is Pescadores), a cluster of islands west of Taiwan, and establish a base there. There is still confusion in court records about what the Chinese call Taiwan and whether it is confused with the Ryukyu Islands to the north. In the 1290s the Chinese send exploratory missions to an island named Liu-ch’iu, which some scholars believe was Taiwan. You stupid Eastern barbarians! Living so far across the sea . . . you are haughty and disloyal. You permit your subjects to do evil. Letter from Ming founder Hung-Wu to Japanese Ashikaga shogun (1380)

1430: Cheng Ho, the famous eunuch and

navigator of the Ming court in China, reports to the emperor that he has discovered

Taiwan, although the island can be seen from Fujian province on a clear day and has for many centuries been known to the Chinese by various names. 1514: Starting in this year, Portuguese ships based in Malacca begin to sail to China; although they make several attempts during the ensuing years, they are prevented from establishing trading posts there (until they settle on Macau in 1557). It is assumed that the sailors catch sight of the island of Taiwan, but because it is not on their maps they refer to it as ilha formosa (beautiful island). In 1596 the well-known Dutch navigator Jan Huyghen van Linschoten first applies this name to the island on a map seen by Europeans, so this is how it eventually comes to be known to the West. 1570: Ming dynasty court records use the name Taiwan for the first time, and the exact location of the island is documented. Some scholars believe that the name is based on the Chinese name for a people who inhabited an islet near Taiwan; others believe it is based on Chinese words for “terraced bay.” 1590: By this time, Ming dynasty officials are encouraging trade and fishing vessels to go to Taiwan, and even more Chinese from southern Fujian region across the Taiwan Straits are emigrating to Taiwan in greater numbers. The Fujianese Chinese immigrants will gradually push the less affluent Hakka from the best land. 1592–1593: Japanese traders arrive in Taiwan and within a year the Japanese government is attempting to make Taiwan pay tribute to Japan. That attempt is unsuccessful. 1609–1616: The Japanese subjugate the Ryuku Islands to the north of Taiwan and subsequently try to colonize Taiwan, but this fails. 1622: The Dutch capture the P’eng-hu (Pescadores) Islands to the west of Taiwan and

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establish a base to control ship traffic through the Taiwan Straits. 1623–1624: In 1623 the Dutch sign a treaty with the Chinese, agreeing to withdraw from the Pescadores Islands. In exchange, they are permitted to establish posts on Taiwan and are granted other privileges. In 1624 the Dutch leave the Pescadores and move on to Taiwan, establishing their first settlement at Fort Orange, later called Fort Zeelandia, near present-day Tainan in the southwest of Taiwan. 1626: Alarmed at seeing the Dutch intruding in a part of the world they consider their monopoly, Spanish forces seize Keelung on the north coast of Taiwan; they soon expand their control across northern Taiwan. 1628–1635: In 1628 the Tokugawa shogunate orders Japanese settlers on Taiwan to withdraw; it is 1635 before the last Japanese leave. The shogunate’s isolationist policies facilitate European expansion on Taiwan. 1642: Spanish settlements are captured by Dutch forces and the Spanish are driven out of northern Taiwan. Taiwan becomes a Dutch colonial enterprise ruled over by the Dutch United East India Company. 1644: Zheng Chenggong (1624?–1662, widely known in the West as Koxinga), a son of the powerful pirate-warlord Cheng Chih-lung, is appointed by the Chinese emperor to command remnants of Ming military forces against the invading Manchus. But it is too late: the Ming dynasty collapses and the Manchus establish the Qing dynasty. Operating along the southeastern coast of China, Zheng Chenggong will continue for the next seventeen years to lead the resistance against the Manchus while at the same time building his personal commercial maritime empire.


1652: In the first major anti-Western uprising

in Chinese history, some fifteen thousand Chinese on Taiwan revolt against the Dutch. With the aid of two thousand aborigines, the Dutch quell the rebellion in two weeks. 1661–1662: Realizing he cannot hold out much longer against the Manchu-Qing forces, in March 1661 Zheng Chenggong (Koxinga) attacks Dutch strongholds in the south of Taiwan; the Dutch finally surrender in February 1662 and leave the island. In June 1662 Zheng Chenggong dies and is succeeded by his son, Cheng Ching. Although Cheng Ching continues to hold on to Taiwan, his rule is plagued by internal dissension for the next two decades. 1666: The first Confucian temple on Taiwan is completed. In general, the Cheng family and their fellow Ming Chinese promote Chinese culture in Taiwan. 1681: Cheng Ching dies. He is succeeded by his fifteen-year-old illegitimate son. The Manchu-Qing dynasty on mainland China, realizing that the Cheng family’s hold on Taiwan is now weakened, prepares for an invasion. For this reason we send a considerable force of ships and men to succor Formosa; in case that the great preparations of Koxinga are found to have vanished in smoke (as has often happened before), then will this fleet have been sent hither in vain. Letter from Governor General Maatzkuiker of Batavia to Van der Laam, commander of the Dutch fleet (July 1680)

September 1683: The Cheng government ab-

dicates in the face of an imminent invasion of Taiwan by Manchu forces.


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THE MANCHU/QING PERIOD: 1683–1895 The Qing dynasty court records of the late seventeenth century describe Taiwan as a “frontier area.” Lack of imperial interest in the region leads to inept rule by the Chinese officials sent from the mainland to govern the island. Throughout the eighteenth century, no form of central government is developed, and the officials are considered corrupt and inefficient by local settlers. Popular dissatisfaction erupts in a series of revolts against the oppression and cruelty meted out to the local citizens. By the mid-nineteenth century, Western ships are calling regularly at the island’s ports and establishing a presence on the island. The Sino-French conflict in Indochina during the late nineteenth century prompts Peking (Beijing) finally to consider the strategic importance of the island. Competent officials are sent to Taiwan and the political administration is reorganized. Efficient and enlightened rule results in increased prosperity, but this comes to an abrupt end when China loses Taiwan to Japan. 1684: Taiwan is made a Chinese prefecture

under the jurisdiction of Fujian province. 1684–1732: At least ten popular uprisings reflect the social and political turmoil of early Qing rule in Taiwan. 1714: Peking (Beijing) commissions three Jesuits to produce a map of Taiwan. 1729: The Qing emperor places a total ban on emigration of Chinese to Taiwan, but faced with the increasing deprivations of southeast China, many choose to emigrate illegally. 1786: A major rebellion breaks out against Chinese rule, but is rapidly crushed. 1840–1842: The First Opium War between China and Britain. The strategic importance of Taiwan is recognized as Westerners vie for trade in the wake of Chinese defeat and subsequent opening of Chinese ports to foreigners. Late 1850s: Keelung and Tamsui on Taiwan become ports of call for Western ships. Many Western countries set up trading posts and consulates on Taiwan. 1874: A Japanese punitive expedition is sent to Taiwan to take revenge on Taiwanese aborigines who have slaughtered shipwrecked Japanese sailors. The British, nervous about a Japanese presence on Taiwan, demand

that China proclaim sovereignty over the island. China is then obliged to cover the cost of the Japanese expedition and pay an indemnity for the beheaded Japanese sailors. 1875: China lifts the imperial ban on emigration of Chinese to Taiwan. 1879: Japan incorporates the nearby Ryukyu Islands and increases contact with Taiwan. 1884: The Sino-French war begins over Annam (Vietnam). The French plan to capture Taiwan in order to force Chinese capitulation. August 1884: Liu Ming-chuan leads forces against French attempts to seize the port of Keelung. 1886: Taiwan is finally made a separate province. Liu Ming-chuan is appointed the first governor of Taiwan; he establishes a postal system and commences a railroad project. August 3, 1894: Japan declares war against China over Korea. April 1895: China concedes defeat by Japan. The Peace Treaty of Shimonoseki is signed, ceding Taiwan and the Pescadores Islands to Japan in perpetuity. May 25, 1895: Local leaders in Taiwan proclaim independence and attempt to establish Asia’s first republic. After five months of “pacification,” the Japanese crush the new republic.

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T H E J A PA N E S E P E R I O D : 1 8 9 5 – 1 9 4 5 Taiwan becomes Japan’s first colonial undertaking. Government decrees are stringently enforced to establish law and order, and a system of mutual responsibility is put into effect. Agricultural productivity is increased and the economic infrastructure improved. Roads, railways and harbors are built, communications facilities upgraded, and education systems overhauled. By the 1920s Taiwan’s economy is booming, diseases such as the bubonic plague have been eradicated, and industrialization is under way. However, all political decisions are made in Tokyo and administered by the colonial authorities, the local inhabitants are forced to learn Japanese at school, and little accommodation is made to local culture and customs. During the 1930s Japan grows increasingly aggressive toward China, halting the small moves toward democracy underway in Taiwan and reinstituting military rule in the area as it prepares for the conflict that becomes World War II. June 1896: The Japanese Diet gives the Jap-

anese governor-general in Taiwan the authority to use administrative orders in place of Japanese law to govern the land. This establishes colonial rule and prohibits local Taiwanese from benefiting from the rights accorded to Japanese citizens. 1898: Households are grouped under a system by which communities assume mutual responsibility for all wrongdoing. Harsh punishments are meted out to offenders. This applies only to Taiwanese people, and, though unpopular, the system proves very effective and is not abolished until 1945. 1903: Taiwan becomes the first electrified area outside Japan proper. 1910: Japan outlaws the practice on Taiwan of binding women’s feet. January 1920: The first major Taiwanese student organization, the Hsin Min Hui (New Citizens’ Society), is founded. It is generally regarded as the precursor of all subsequent Taiwanese political organizations. 1924: The Home Rule Association of Taiwan presents a document listing twelve grievances to the Japanese colonial government. 1928: The first university is established in Taiwan. September 1931: The Japanese occupation of

Manchuria on the mainland triggers the formation of several political parties in Taiwan. 1935: In a cautious move toward democratization, Tokyo announces the establishment of elective government in Taiwan. It will, however, apply only to local government. 1936: Progress toward more democratic rule is halted as Japan heads toward war. However, Taiwan benefits from the development of heavy industry, becoming increasingly self-sufficient. 1937: Japan starts all-out aggression against China, and a new form of martial law is implemented in Taiwan. April 1, 1938: At the Provisional National Congress of the Guomintang, the ruling Nationalist Party of China, its leader, Chiang Kai-shek, announces his intention to take back Taiwan from Japan. 1941: Japan launches its invasion of the Philippines from Taiwan, which the Japanese army calls an “unsinkable aircraft carrier.” December 1, 1943: The Cairo Declaration, signed by the Allies and China, includes a pledge to return Taiwan to the Republic of China. July 26, 1945: The Allies sign the Potsdam Agreement, reiterating the territorial provisions of the Cairo Declaration.


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BETWEEN TWO WORLDS: 1945–1998 The Chinese assume control of Taiwan, which is placed under military rule. Tensions break out between the local inhabitants and the Chinese sent over to govern. Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist Chinese government on the mainland is defeated in 1949 and flees to Taiwan. Over the next decade, conditions on Taiwan gradually improve with a land-reform program and financial aid from the United States. The economy begins to soar and the country becomes increasingly democratized. The Nationalist Chinese claim to represent China in a world polarized into Communist and democratic blocs, but Taiwan is ousted from the United Nations as the Cold War escalates and the West seeks a rapprochement with Beijing in an attempt to balance the might of the USSR. Tensions simmer between the Republic of China in Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China, which makes it clear that it intends to regain control of the island. October 2, 1945: Taiwan officially becomes

part of the Republic of China as agreed under the terms of the Cairo Declaration. It is not made a province of China as expected, but is placed under military rule. Chen Yi is appointed governor-general and supreme commander. February 28, 1947: A Taiwanese uprising against Nationalist Chinese oppression is put down by the military, causing many deaths. December 29, 1948: General Chen Cheng is appointed governor of Taiwan. The island is made a province and military rule dismantled in efforts to placate the outraged populace in the wake of the February massacre. 1949: As the months pass, Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist forces are defeated by Mao Zedong’s Communist forces and the Nationalists are forced to abandon the major cities on the mainland. March 8, 1949: Chiang Kai-shek resumes presidency of the Republic of China, which he claims is now based in Taiwan. The Nationalists appoint Wu Kuo-chen governor. December 8, 1949: The Guomintang (Nationalists), recognizing that they can no longer resist the Communists on the mainland, announce that they are relocating their capital to Taiwan. (Chiang Kai-shek arrives on Taiwan on December 10.) Martial law is applied to Taiwan by executive order. The government insists on retaining the name

“Republic of China” to underline its stated desire to regain control of mainland China. Let’s go and see the lanterns— It’s old-fashioned to wear a skirt; Let’s go and see the lanterns— Though we’re in China, lanterns were in Cathay. Let’s wade together through the moontide To see the Buddhist temple afloat, Darkly bulking over a sea Of torches held to light the way to divinity, Through incense-thick anachronism. “Lantern Festival,” poem by Jung Tzu (1928– )

June 1950: Outbreak of the Korean War. The

United States sends the Seventh Fleet to the Taiwan Straits to block any possible invasion by Mao’s armies. Taiwan becomes synonymous with the Republic of China (as opposed to the People’s Republic of China on the mainland), siding with the West and opposing communism. 1950: Taiwan, with U.S. aid, launches a highly successful land-reform program that increases agricultural production and paves the way for Taiwan’s industrialization. September 8, 1951: Under the peace treaty signed at San Francisco, Japan abandons all

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claims to Taiwan and the nearby Pescadores Islands. December 1951: Taiwan’s Provincial Assembly is established. September 1953: Chiang Kai-shek extends the terms of the National Assembly, elected in 1947, until another National Assembly can be elected. March 1954: The temporary provisions of the Constitution are indefinitely extended by the National Assembly. Chiang Kai-shek is reelected president for another six-year term. September 3, 1954: Mainland Chinese Communist forces bombard Quemoy, the largest of the offshore islands controlled by Taiwan, but back down when the United States threatens military intervention. January 1955: Northernmost Tache Island, held by Taiwan, falls to Communist forces. The U.S. Congress passes a resolution permitting American forces to defend Taiwan and the surrounding islands. August 23, 1958: Mainland Chinese Communist forces fire on the offshore island of Quemoy. Once again, the threat of U.S. intervention ensures that the island remains under Taiwanese control. March 11, 1960: The National Assembly amends the temporary provisions of the constitution to allow the president and the vice president to exceed the two-term limit. Chiang Kai-shek and Chen Cheng are reelected. June 1960: President Eisenhower visits Taiwan. The People’s Republic of China bombards Quemoy as part of a military exercise to show its disapproval of the visit. December 1961: Taiwan’s first nuclear reactor goes into operation. February 1962: Taiwan opens its first stock exchange. March 14, 1962: Taiwan’s government announces that it does not recognize Japanese residual authority over the Ryukyu Islands. July 1, 1964: U.S. aid to Taiwan is officially terminated. Taiwan’s economy takes off to


become one of the world’s fastest-growing economies over the next two decades. March 22, 1966: Chiang Kai-shek is reelected to a fourth term as president by the National Assembly. December 3, 1966: Taiwan’s first Export Processing Zone is inaugurated. Designed to encourage Western investment by reducing red tape and providing economic incentives, the zones are later emulated by other Asian countries, including China. July 29, 1967: Compulsory education in Taiwan is extended from six to nine years. June 25, 1968: Chiang Kai-shek’s eldest son, Defense Minister Chiang Ching-kuo, is named vice premier. 1969: A U.S.-China rapprochement begins as a result of the Nixon Doctrine. October 25, 1971: The Republic of China is expelled from the United Nations. The People’s Republic of China is admitted to hold the China seat. This results in the loss of diplomatic ties between Taiwan and most of the nations with which it has had formal relations. March 21, 1972: Chiang Kai-shek is elected to a fifth six-year term as president. May 26, 1972: Chiang Ching-kao becomes premier. April 5, 1975: Chiang Kai-shek dies. May 1975: Premier Chiang Ching-kuo is elected Chairman of the Central Committee of the Guomintang (National Citizen Party). The Guomintang, now generally referred to as the KMT, was officially formed in 1919 by Sun Yat-sen in China and has been the majority party in Taiwan since the government fled to the island in 1949. July 1976: The Republic of China Olympic Committee withdraws from the Montreal Olympic Games to protest being required to compete under the name Taiwan. March 21, 1978: President Carter announces that the United States will cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan effective January 1, 1979. He acknowledges that there is only one China, the People’s Republic of China.


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April 15, 1979: The U.S. Congress passes the

Taiwan Relations Act, giving Taiwan security and economic guarantees; although this is not a formal recognition of Taiwan as a sovereign nation state, its effect is much the same. Taiwan’s population is now 17.1 million, and three decades of development have made Taiwan’s economy one of Asia’s strongest. December 6, 1980: Supplemental national elections to the Legislative Yuan (the highest legislative organ of Taiwan) and the National Assembly, take place in what are widely regarded as Taiwan’s first competitive elections. The democratization process is accelerated. April 3, 1981: Chiang Ching-kuo is reelected Chairman of the ruling Guomintang. December 1983: Taiwan holds its second national elections, characterized by genuine competition. March 21, 1984: President Chiang Ching-kuo is elected to another six-year term. Lee Tenghui is elected vice president. September 1986: The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is formed. December 1986: The first two-party elections ever held in a Chinese nation takes place in Taiwan. The Guomintang wins. July 15, 1987: Martial law, imposed in 1949, is abolished. Martial law was never fully implemented, but the move is viewed with approval by the Western press as an indication of Taiwan’s democratization. January 13, 1988: President Chiang Chingkuo dies. Lee Teng-hui is sworn in, becoming Taiwan’s first native-born president. March 21, 1990: Lee Teng-hui is reelected president for a six-year term and pledges democratic reform. April 1990: The state of war with China, declared in 1949, is ended. January 1991: The Executive Yuan (Taiwan’s highest administrative body) approves a sixyear development plan to improve the economic infrastructure. December 1991: The first direct elections to

the National Assembly are held. The Guomintang wins, receiving, according to some observers, a democratic mandate. March 20, 1992: The new or Second National Assembly convenes to amend the constitution. Changes include introducing four-year terms for delegates and direct elections for the president and vice president. July 16, 1992: The Legislative Yuan passes a statute decreeing that China is “one country, two areas” in regard to relations between Taiwan and mainland China. December 19, 1992: The first direct elections to the Legislative Yuan are held. The ruling Guomintang wins a smaller majority of seats than expected. Disunity within the party is blamed. January 4, 1993: President Lee Teng-hui gives the first ever State of the Nation address to the National Assembly. Shouting and fighting break out over the issue of Taiwan’s independence. February 27, 1993: President Lee Teng-hui announces that Taiwan will seek participation in the United Nations and calls for international support in this effort. April 27, 1993: Two days of talks between representatives of China and Taiwan begin in Singapore. Four agreements are signed that specify areas of cooperation but do not address such contentious areas as sovereignty. December 18, 1993: Officials from China and Taiwan meet in Taipei (the capital of Taiwan) to discuss improving trade and cultural links. This is the first time in forty years that an official Chinese delegation has been in Taiwan. January 29, 1993: The ruling Guomintang wins a smaller number of seats than expected in mayoral elections marred by allegations of extensive vote-buying and violence. February 2, 1994: Bilateral talks between China and Taiwan take place in Beijing. August 8, 1994: A cooperation pact is signed with China. Sovereignty issues are not addressed.

t a i wa n September 8, 1994: The United States an-

nounces an official shift in policy toward Taiwan. The move toward a rapprochement between the United States and Taiwan angers China. January 5, 1995: The Taiwanese cabinet approves a plan to ease a ban on direct transportation links with mainland China. June 7–10, 1995: President Lee Teng-hui makes what is described as only a private visit to the United States, but the mainland Chinese government suspends talks with Taiwan in response.

We sincerely hope that all nations can treat us fairly and reasonably, and not overlook the significance, value, and functions we represent. Some say that it is impossible for us to break out of the diplomatic isolation we face, but we will do our utmost to demand the impossible. President Lee Teng-hui, speech at Cornell University (June 9, 1995)

December 2, 1995: The ruling Kuomingtang

loses ground to opposition parties in parliamentary elections. March 22–27, 1996: The Dalai Lama visits Taiwan, angering the People’s Republic of China. March 23, 1996: President Lee Teng-hui wins a resounding victory in Taiwan’s first democratic presidential election. May 9, 1997: The government survives a noconfidence vote brought by opposition parties, angered by rising crime rates. A partial cabinet reshuffle ensues. June 28, 1997: A “Say No To China” rally takes place in Taiwan three days before the transfer of Hong Kong to China. July 1, 1997: When Hong Kong is handed over to China, Chinese Premier Li Peng de-


clares that the “one country, two systems” policy could also work for Taiwan. Summer 1997: The financial crisis that is spreading throughout Asia following Thailand’s devaluation of its currency has some effect on Taiwan’s economy. August 21, 1997: Premier Lien Chan resigns in the face of criticism over a surge in the crime rate. November 1997: The ruling Kuomingtang loses local elections in seven of the fifteen municipalities it had held. January 20, 1998: The Chinese Foreign Ministry declares that China is ready to resume talks with Taiwan with no preconditions. April 20, 1998: Thousands of Buddhists on Taiwan attend ceremonies greeting the arrival of what is regarded as a holy tooth that once belonged to Buddha. June 30, 1998: During his visit to mainland China, U.S. President Clinton meets with a selected group of intellectuals and leaders in Shanghai and apparently spontaneously enunciates what is known as “the three no’s policy”: the United States would not support Taiwan independence, would not back Taiwan’s efforts to enter the United Nations, and would not support the notion of two Chinas—namely, one China and one Taiwan. This is immediately met by expressions ranging from concern to criticism by Taiwanese and by some Americans, especially Republicans opposed to Clinton’s policies, but Clinton and his spokesmen insist that this represents no change in U.S. policy and reiterate that the United States intends to continue supporting Taiwan under the provisions of the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979. July 9, 1998: In an explicit follow-up to President Clinton’s remarks in China about U.S. policy in regard to Taiwan, the government in Beijing urges Taiwan to “face reality” and agree to talks on an eventual reunification with China.

Hong Kong

PREHISTORIC HONG KONG Hong Kong is a name applied to both a single island and a political entity that includes a total of 235 islands and a still larger area on the adjacent mainland, all of which the British acquired or leased in the nineteenth century. In this chronology, Hong Kong refers to this whole region. Throughout the Pleistocene Age (approx. 1.75 million years ago to 10,000 b.c.) the islands of Hong Kong are often attached directly to the mainland of China because of the low sea level; not until the world’s seas rise to their present level, about 6000 b.c., did Hong Kong’s islands become isolated. Although it is quite likely that some humans visited this territory earlier, the first known traces of human beings in this region date only to about 4100 b.c. What is uncertain is whether these first inhabitants originated in Southeast Asia, South China, or Taiwan. In any case, the people of Hong Kong pass through the Neolithic (New Stone) Age and Bronze Age, in both instances for the most part adopting or at least learning from the culture of peoples in southern China and Southeast Asia. Starting about 200 b.c., mainland Chinese begin to exert increasing control over southern China; not until about a.d. 220, however, do mainland Chinese appear to be becoming an active presence in Hong Kong. By about the year 400 Hong Kong seems to be involved in trade involving both China and Southeast Asia. Several bits of physical evidence during the early first millennium strongly suggest the increasing role of mainland Chinese in Hong Kong, but it will be about 800 before Hong Kong can begin to be considered as part of China. The earliest written evidence of the Chinese settlement in the Hong Kong region appears in a ninth-century poem. 4100–3000 B . C .: The oldest known evidence

of human occupation in Hong Kong dates from this period, technically labeled the Middle Neolithic; it is sometimes described as that of “affluent foragers” because although these people continue to obtain most

food simply by foraging, they also make quite advanced pottery and bone and shell artifacts. The first phase (Chung Hom Wan, approximately 4100–3600 b.c.) has both painted and cord-marked pottery; the second phase (Sham Wan, 3600–3000 b.c.) has

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finer pottery, some incised (with geometric designs) and some perforated. The main sites are on the islands of Lamma and Lantao. Other finds include stone tools—especially polished adzes. Some archaeologists see strong resemblances to the Bacsonian culture (so named after the prime site in Vietnam); others stress the strong indigenous roots of southern Chinese culture. 2800–1500 B . C .: For Hong Kong, this is the Late Neolithic period. The culture now has a strong maritime orientation—not surprisingly, in that the people live surrounded by ocean. There are indications of settlements that suggest some agriculture. The people make more sophisticated stone tools and ornamental rings from quartz and other stones; jadeite ceremonial axes (known as yazhang) found on Lamma and Lantao islands are almost certainly imports from China but suggest the development of ritual life; some pottery has geometric decorations; spindle whorls and net weights attest to textile industry and fishing. 1500–500 B . C .: Although most people in Hong Kong continue with their stone tools, some people begin to use copper and bronze for special weapons, tools, knives, and fish hooks. By 1300 b.c. some people on Hong Kong are casting bronze; bronze socketed axes made in bivalve molds are similar to those found in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos; other bronze artifacts are either of mainland Chinese import or inspiration, suggesting ties with the Red River delta in the southeast corner of China. But stone rings made of marble and agate are as much markers of this period as are bronze artifacts. There is evidently some increase in population, more people adopt rice cultivation, and domestic animals are probably being kept; but most people seem to remain tied to coastal life and little remains of permanent settlements. Burials (1000–500 b.c.) with orientation of the head to the south suggest a primitive notion of feng shui, the Chinese belief in geomancy.


1200 B . C .?– A . D . 200: Dating from sometime

during this long period are carvings found on rocks at nine sites in Hong Kong; some of these are remote locales, others are near villages, but all are overlooking coastal water. Most of these have a sort of continuous spiral patterns, with geometric and/or zoomorphic elements. These spirals seem to link these carvings to Bronze Age artifacts dated to about 1200–400 b.c. In any case, they are not exactly like anything found either in China or anyplace else in world. It is believed that the carvings are in some way associated with rituals and religious beliefs. The people who make them are sometimes regarded as Yueh, a somewhat vague name (sometimes spelled Yeu, Yiu, and even Viet) the Chinese applied to early inhabitants of southern China; they are a diverse people, speaking different languages and practicing different cultures, but they are most likely an Austro-Thai people and may well be ancestors of the aboriginal tribes who live in the mountains of Hong Kong as late as the nineteenth century. 221 B . C . – A . D . 220: Two Chinese dynasties— Qin (221–207 b.c.) and Han (206 b.c.–a.d. 220)—move into southern China to bring it under military control. The main point of concentration is the area around Canton (Guangzhou in Chinese), some seventy-five miles northwest of Hong Kong. The northern Chinese regard the peoples of the south practically as savages and the region as virtually a wild swamp, but the Chinese want the produce of the south—ivory, rhinoceros, pearls, medicinal drugs, and dyestuffs. There is little evidence of the Chinese presence in Hong Kong except a fair number of Han period coins, indicative of trade. It is not really known if the Chinese moved into Hong Kong with military forces, but Chinese historical texts refer to a naval battle of 120–111 b.c. and a campaign against the “barbarian Yueh,” which may include inhabitants of Hong Kong. A . D . 100–220: A brick chamber-tomb at Lei


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Cheng Uk, on Kowloon peninsula—dated to about a.d. 200, the end of Han dynasty— is entirely Chinese in its design and materials. Some sixty-one pottery objects are found in this tomb as well as eight pieces of bronze. It is obvious that this is a tomb of an important person, and someone with strong links to China to the north; one surmise is that it is a memorial to a Chinese military leader in the campaigns against the Yueh. In any case, it is the oldest and strongest evidence of the Chinese presence or influence in Hong Kong. 265–907: Fine burial vases from this period found in Hong Kong are either imports or made under direct inspiration from mainland China. 300–900: A lime kiln industry flourishes in Hong Kong, particularly during the Tang dynasty (618–907); the lime is made from burning shells and coral. ?450: A Buddhist monastery at Tuen Mun, on mainland Hong Kong, claims to have been founded about this time; this is not un-

reasonable, but the first written evidence of the monastery dates only from 950.

Though Tuen Mun [mountain in Hong Kong] is considered high, The waves have swallowed it up. Couplet by Han Yue, engraved on stone tablet at a Buddhist monastery (6th century)

618–907: During the Tang dynasty Hong

Kong expands its trade with Asia, particularly with Persia and India. Most of this trade passes through Canton on the Chinese mainland. 8th century: Beginning at least by this century, a settlement at Tai Bo is a major source of pearls. 9th century: The Chinese poet Han Yueh refers to Tuen Mun naval base on Hong Kong, which almost certainly serves as a customs post and guards the approach to Canton (Guangzhou).

C H I N E S E C O L O N I Z AT I O N :



During the tenth century, the Chinese establish an Imperial Pearl Monopoly at Tai Bo. Civilians are excluded from the area until the end of the eleventh century, when the impecunious Song dynasty begins to distribute imperial property grants to influential Chinese. It is likely that another Imperial Estate exists at Kowloon, where fleeing Song emperors stay in the mid-thirteenth century. From the fourteenth century, the Chinese government pursues isolationist policies that lead to military withdrawal from the Hong Kong region. As imperial interest in the region declines, pirates increasingly terrorize the coast during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Defenses are improved when the area is finally made a separate county in 1571. From the end of the eighteenth century, Western trade expands through Canton (Guangzhou) where opium is brought by the British to trade for tea. Tensions over the opium trade escalate, and erupt in the First Anglo-Chinese War (also known as the First Opium War, 1840–1842). 907–960: The Five Dynasties. The Chinese

establish an Imperial Pearl Monopoly at Tai Bo in 907. Salt farms and a naval base are set up at Kowloon. 960–1279: The Song dynasty. Well-connected Chinese begin to settle in the region, apparently with imperial permission. The

first temple to Tin Hua, the goddess of the fishing community, is established. An inscription at Fat Tong Mun in Hong Kong (dated to 1274) refers to the visit of a “salt field official” to the area. The last two Song emperors stay in the region during their flight from the Mongols.

ho n g ko n g 1280-1368: The Yuan dynasty rules China.

Little information survives about this period, although evidence suggests that the remnants of the Song court settle in the Kowloon region. Scholars believe that this area is run as a personal fief by the influential Ho family, who are granted lands in return for their support of the Yuan dynasty. 1368–1644: Ming dynasty. The imperial government responds to pirates terrorizing the region by declaring it a separate county in 1571 and appointing a senior official to restore order and improve coastal defenses. 1644: The Qing dynasty takes over China and will rule until 1912. 1661: Pro-Ming factions attack the coast, which prompts the imperial government to evacuate all citizens living within fifty li (about twelve miles) of the coast. Their homes and lands are burned in a bid to starve out the rebels. 1669: The coastal evacuation order is rescinded. The original Cantonese evacuees return to their former homes, although many have died from starvation. Their lands are bought by Hakka (meaning “guest”) people, originally from northeast China. 1685: The British begin trading in Canton (Guangzhou). 1687: The East India Company, already in possession of the Indian Trade Monopoly, is granted monopoly over trade with China by


the British government. Vast amounts of tea are imported to Britain and are paid for with silver bullion, creating a trade imbalance in China’s favor. 1757: A guild of merchants called the Cohong wins exclusive right to trade with Westerners. 1759: The Chinese promulgate trading restrictions to ensure that the Western traders do not expand into other areas of China. These rules are gradually tightened to the frustration of the foreign traders. 1773: The British import opium into China in an attempt to regularize the balance of trade with China. 1793: A British mission to Peking (Beijing), led by Lord Francis Napier, fails to alleviate the trade restrictions, but establishes the British desire to occupy Hong Kong Island. 1796: An imperial edict totally bans the opium trade, which nonetheless continues to expand illegally. March 18, 1839: Lin Zexu is appointed the Special Imperial Commissioner for the Suppression of the Opium Trade. He demands immediate surrender of all opium, which is then publicly destroyed. September 4, 1839: As tensions mount, the British fire at a Chinese junk, touching off the First Anglo-Chinese War, known also as the First Opium War. January 1840: War is formally declared between Great Britain and China.

BRITISH RULE: 1841–1997 Hong Kong is ceded to the British at the end of the First Anglo-Chinese War (First Opium War, 1840–1842) and quickly eclipses Macau as the foremost trading center of the region. Stonecutters Island and Kowloon are annexed to the region at the culmination of the Second AngloChinese War (1856–1860). Russian and French acquisition of Chinese territories prompts Great Britain to lease the New Territories for ninety-nine years, beginning in 1898. During the latter part of the nineteenth century, the increasing demand for workers is met by regular influxes of Chinese refugees from disturbances in mainland China, but political and social reforms fail to keep up with the expanding population, causing popular dissatisfaction. Japan occupies Hong Kong briefly during World War II (1941–1945), but the British rapidly reassume control. From the 1950s, trade gives way to manufacturing and the region prospers, becoming one of the world’s


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foremost business and financial centers. During the 1980s, the imminent expiration of the lease of the New Territories leads to negotiations for the reversion of the territory to Chinese control. In the early 1990s, attempts at democratic reform by the British Governor of Hong Kong are resisted by the Chinese government, but the handover is completed in 1997 under assurances that it will be administered as a Special Administrative Region of China. January 20, 1841: The Chinese are defeated

by the British navy in the First Anglo-Chinese War. The Treaty of Chuanbi is signed, ceding Hong Kong Island to Great Britain. However, both governments refuse to accept the terms and hostilities are renewed. Albert is so much amused at my having got the Island of Hong Kong, and we think Victoria ought to be called Princess of Hong Kong in addition to Princess Royal.

New Territories for ninety-nine years under the Second Convention of Peking. 1908: The British government decides, despite opposition from the Hong Kong government, to close all opium-smoking parlors. 1911: Refugees flood in to Hong Kong as the Manchu dynasty is overthrown in China and the republic is established. The Chinese revolution produces a new government even more hostile to the importation of opium, and regulations are more strictly applied.

Letter of Queen Victoria (April 13, 1841)

A barren island with hardly a house upon it. Letter of Lord Palmerston (April 21, 1841)

1841–1842: The British occupy Hong Kong

Island during the First Anglo-Chinese War.

Afterward I saw the outside world, and as I began to wonder how it was that foreigners, that Englishmen could do such things as they had done, for example with the barren rock of Hong Kong. Address at Hong Kong University by Sun Yat-sen (1923)

August 29, 1842: Representatives of China

and Great Britain sign the Treaty of Nanking, formally ceding Hong Kong Island to the British in perpetuity. 1852: Refugees from the Taiping Rebellion in mainland China begin to arrive in Hong Kong. 1856–1860: The Second Anglo-Chinese War (Second Opium War). October 1860: The Treaty of Peking is signed. Great Britain acquires Kowloon and Stonecutters Island in perpetuity. 1869: The Suez Canal is opened, improving trade routes between Europe and the Far East. July 1, 1898: The British claim that recent territorial acquisitions in China by France and Russia have caused concern over regional defense capabilities. They lease the

May 1925–October 1926: A general strike and

boycott in Hong Kong is sparked by antiforeign demonstrations in Shanghai. Fueled by anti-imperialism on the mainland, the strikes express popular indignation at the privileged status of foreigners. December 8, 1941: The Japanese army, which has already gained control of Peking (Beijing), Tientsin (Tianjin), Shanghai, and Nanjing, mounts an attack on Hong Kong. December 25, 1941: The British surrender Hong Kong to the Japanese. The Japanese refer to the region as “the Captured Territory of Hong Kong.” 1942–1945: Trade comes to a standstill in the region and food becomes scarce. September 15, 1945: Japan surrenders to the

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Allies and the British rapidly reassume control of Hong Kong. September 1945: The prohibition of opium is accepted by the British, and all government monopolies in Hong Kong and Singapore are abolished. September 1949: Chinese refugees pour into Hong Kong as the Communist government is established on the mainland. The ousted Nationalist government flees to Taiwan. During the next fifty years, Hong Kong becomes one of the most prosperous, modern, and crowded cities in Asia. April 1966: The Star Ferry Company, which runs ferries between Hong Kong Island (where many people work) and Kowloon (where many people live), decides to raise fares. This triggers violent riots expressing popular social and political dissatisfaction. May 1967: The Cultural Revolution in China spills over into Hong Kong, and rioters protest against British rule. March 8, 1972: China claims Hong Kong in a letter to the United Nations. 1974: Increasing numbers of Vietnamese refugees begin to arrive in Hong Kong. March–April 1979: Hong Kong governor Sir Murray MacLehouse meets Chinese premier Deng Xiaoping, who advises the governor, “tell your investors to put their hearts at ease.” However, the Chinese Foreign Minister declares that Hong Kong is part of China. October 1980: The British government tightens up immigration laws and announces the end of the “Reach Base” policy for Chinese immigrants, which gave any Chinese person who reached the colony the right to stay. 1981: Under the terms of Britain’s New Nationality Act, 2.6 million Hong Kong Chinese, erstwhile British subjects, become “Citizens of the British Dependent Territory of Hong Kong.” The change in status deprives them of the right to an abode in the United Kingdom. September 1981: British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher visits Beijing to discuss the


future of Hong Kong. She insists on the validity of former treaties but problems arise over the issue of sovereignty. The Chinese make it clear that they intend to regain the whole Hong Kong region. December 1982: China adopts a new constitution that makes a provision for Hong Kong to be governed as a Special Administrative Region under the principle of “one country, two systems.” July 1983: Formal rounds of talks on the future of Hong Kong begin between representatives of the Chinese and British governments. The issue of sovereignty remains unresolved. September 26, 1984: The Sino-British Joint Declaration is signed by British and Chinese prime ministers. The British government considers that governing Hong Kong Island and Stonecutter Island without Kowloon and the New Territories would be impracticable. They agree to return the whole of the Hong Kong region to Chinese control. June 1985: The Basic Law Drafting Committee (BLDC) is set up by the Chinese to develop a constitution-like document for post-1997 Hong Kong. September 1985: The first (indirect) elections to the Legislative Council are held. Members had hitherto been nominated. 1988: The Hong Kong government publishes a White Paper, which anticipates the first direct elections to the Legislative Council in 1991, after China has approved the Basic Law. May–June 1989: Large public rallies are held in Hong Kong, in support of prodemocracy demonstrations in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. Over a million Hong Kong people peacefully protest the violent Chinese crackdown. April 1990: China’s National People’s Congress approves the Basic Law for Hong Kong. The Basic Law will form the basis for the territory’s political, economic, social, and judicial arrangements for fifty years after the handover.


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The British government announces that fifty thousand heads of household and their dependents will be granted full British national passports with the right of abode in the United Kingdom. The Chinese government says that it will refuse to accept the validity of these passports. September 1991: Landmark direct elections are held for the Legislative Council in Hong Kong. Prodemocracy candidates win all but two of eighteen seats contested. October 7, 1992: Governor of Hong Kong Chris Patten unveils plans for democratic reform, including expanding the voter base and instituting free elections. December 3, 1992: Beijing threatens to abandon the Joint Declaration if Patten goes ahead with the reforms. 1993: Britain and China continue to heatedly debate the reform proposals, and the Hong Kong government implements some democratic changes. April 1990:

The city has become adjunct to its airport. The airport has become a mere coach station for families strung out across oceans and continents. “Hong Kong at the Crossroads,” poem by Louise Ho (1990s)

December 27, 1993: In response to the gov-

ernor’s refusal to abandon democratic reforms, Beijing announces plans to dismantle the democratically elected Legislative Council on July 1, 1997. May 1994: China begins issuing Hong Kong currency through the Bank of China. 1995: Legislative Council elections (four-year term) are held for the last time before Hong Kong’s handover to China in 1997. June 30, 1997: Britain’s ninety-nine-year lease expires at midnight, and Hong Kong becomes a Special Administrative Region of China.

C H I N E S E R E S T O R AT I O N : 1 9 9 7 – 1 9 9 8 The Chinese government regains control of the region and immediately dismantles the Legislative Council, replacing it with a pro-Beijing Provisional Legislature. The Asian region is in economic recession, and tourism in Hong Kong plummets. Local businesses, industry, and the Hong Kong stock market are affected by the “domino effect” of collapsing Asian currencies and banks, but by mid-1998 the region begins to show signs of stabilizing. July 1, 1997: The Legislative Council is dis-

solved and replaced by a pro-Beijing Provisional Legislature. Four thousand armed troops arrive in a show of military force. October 1, 1997: Hong Kong officially celebrates China’s National Day for the first time. October 8, 1997: Tung Chee-hwa, appointed by Beijing as the chief executive of Hong Kong, presents first State of the Territory address on the hundredth day of Chinese rule. December 28, 1997: Hong Kong authorities begin to kill the first of some 1,400,000 million chickens suspected of harboring a

deadly avian influenza virus. Fatal to humans, the virus is suspected of killing at least twenty people before it is eliminated in March 1998. It is believed that the virus was actually introduced from the mainland. January 12, 1998: Hong Kong’s largest investment bank, Peregrine Investment Holdings, files for liquidation. Up to this point, Hong Kong seems to have been relatively unscathed by the financial crisis that is sweeping through Asia, but this now plunges Hong Kong’s financial markets into a downward spiral, gradually leading to a collapse of its stock market, a rapid decline in its property

ho n g ko n g

values, and great pressure on its currency, the Hong Kong Dollar (HK$). May 24, 1998: In elections to the Legislative Council, pro-democracy candidates win fourteen of the twenty directly elected seats, but the system established by the Communist government of China has held forty seats on the council for those effectively assigned by the pro-China and pro-business interests. Immediately after the election, the chief executive of the Special Administrative Region, Tung Chee-hwa, warns that there will be no acceleration of political reform. July 6, 1998: Hong Kong formally inaugurates its new International Airport. It has cost the government HK$20 billion. In its first months it is besieged by a host of technical


and logistical problems, aggravated by the increasing decline in the world’s economies that translates into a decline in the trade and tourism which were expected to finance the airport. August 14, 1998: As Hong Kong stocks and currency continue to decline in value, the government begins to purchase shares and futures with the goal of buoying the Hong Kong stock market, which has declined to a five-year low. Unemployment also hits a fifteen-year high. Defending what the free market economies see as unwarranted government intervention, Hong Kong’s financial secretary, Sir Donald Tsang, claims this is called for because of “speculators who have been deploying a whole host of improper measures.”

Macau (Macao)

CHINA’S MACAU Macau is the name given to a tiny region that includes two islets (totaling only some four square miles) and a peninsula (about 2.1 square miles), the latter joined to the Chinese mainland by a narrow isthmus. Macau is some forty miles southwest of Hong Kong, and like its better known neighbor, is linked by its history to both China and the world of European colonial imperialism. Macau is literally linked to China until about 6000 b.c., when the rising sea level gives Macau its present configuration. Next to nothing is known about Macau during the prehistoric period of China and the other East Asian or Southeast Asian lands. In fact, very little is known about Macau until the coming of the Portuguese in the mid-sixteenth century. This is due probably more to the sparseness of modern archaeological research than to an absence of ancient inhabitants. It is clear, though, even without much physical or written evidence, that this territory was always part of China. Under the Portuguese, Macau prospered as a junction for international trade, particularly between Western Europe and China; as an international port, it also became notorious for its night life, prostitution, and gambling. Although the Portuguese dominated the official and administrative affairs, it was the Chinese who gradually came to run the island’s economic and social life. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, the Portuguese agreed to turn Macau back to the Chinese in 1999. During what is technically the early Middle Neolithic period in this part of the world, some inhabitants of a site on Macau known as Hac Sa Wan possess a painted pottery of a type familiar from Hong Kong during this time (where it is known as the Chung Hom Wan type).


B . C .:

Incised pottery of the type found in Hong Kong and known as the Sham Wan phase of the Middle Neolithic is found in Macau. 1000? B . C . – A . D . 200: A number of rock carvings at Ka Ho on Coloane Islet, Macau, may be related to rock carvings on Hong Kong of 3500–2500

B . C .:

m a ca u (m a ca o )

this period, although there is no solid evidence of this. One of the carvings is a “chessboard” pattern and another is a more complex design that may represent boats; the carvings are accompanied by man-made pits, or small holes, cut in the rocks. 7th century–16th century A . D .: Chinese overseas trade flourishes, and it is assumed that some of this passes through Macau because of its strategic location at the mouth of the Pearl River. This also means that pirates probably use Macau as both a base and a refuge. 13th century: By this time, Macau is known as Hou Keng (Haojing) to the Chinese. During this century Chinese settlers on Macau apparently establish two temples, the Ma Kok (Mage Miu) Temple and the Kun Iam Tong (Guanyin Tang) Temple. 1276: Forces of the Southern Song dynasty of mainland China are defeated by forces of what will become known as the Yuan dynasty; the Song royal family and its loyal followers flee in two thousand junks, and a storm forces them to take refuge on the islands of Macau. The Yuan forces follow shortly but are repulsed. Supposedly the Song Chinese remain and establish the first solid Chinese settlements on Macau. 14th–15th centuries: The so-called Hoklo (boat people) Chinese begin to move onto


Macau, attracted by its harbors, for they are interested in trading with southern Chinese. 1514–1553: During this period, Portuguese traders and fishermen, by now based in Malacca in Malaya, visit the Chinese mainland (1514) and try to establish a series of trading posts or fishing bases along the south coast of China. Each of these is eventually abandoned, but the Portuguese are determined to have a permanent base for their trading operations in this part of Asia. 1535–1554: The Ming Chinese establish a customs house on Macau during this time in an attempt to regulate the increasing trade along this part of China’s coast. In the end, the customs house is relocated on Longbow, an island just west of Macau and also used by the Portuguese. 1552: Francis Xavier, the pioneering Catholic Jesuit missionary in Asia, dies on the island of Shangchuan (Saint John), southwest of Macau. 1553: Lionel de Souza, commander of the Portuguese enterprise in East Asia, reaches an agreement with the Chinese that allows him to establish a trading base in the area of Macau. It is not clear whether the Portuguese do establish such a base at once, although it appears that some Portuguese begin to use Macau for drying out their soaked cargo.

T H E P O RT U G U E S E P E R I O D : 1 5 5 7 – 1 9 9 9 From the 1550s, Macau rapidly becomes an important Portuguese entrepoˆt linking the lucrative trade routes between Europe and the Orient and enabling the Portuguese to virtually monopolize Western trade with China. Missionaries, particularly Jesuits, begin to arrive in the midsixteenth century, and establish several influential educational, medical and charitable institutions. By the end of the seventeenth century, Portuguese maritime preeminence has waned as a result of the loss of the pivotal port of Malacca and the Japanese ban on trade. As a result, the Chinese are able to reassert some authority in the area during the eighteenth century, and tensions develop over the trade in opium. The First Opium War (1840–1842) leads to the cession of Hong Kong Island to Great Britain; Macau is relegated to a minor commercial role. However the introduction of licensed gambling in the 1850s provides a new source of revenue. In the late twentieth century, the Macau region becomes a popular tourist destination, despite some


ma c a u ( m ac ao)

problems with corruption and gang violence (much of it caused by the money generated by gambling casinos). Reversion of Macau to China is negotiated, and the region prepares to become a Special Administrative Region of China two years after Hong Kong is assigned the same status. 1557: This year is sometimes regarded the

founding of Portugal’s claim to Macau because it sees a formal and permanent agreement that replaces the verbal agreement made in 1555 between Captain-Major Lionel de Souza and Wang Po, representative of Guangdong Province and acting commander of the regional Chinese coast guard. The Portuguese agree to pay license fees, customs taxes and a yearly lease sum. (Legend claims that Portugal’s great poet, Luis de Camoens, author of The Lusiads—the national epic based on Vasco da Gama’s expedition to India—was on Macau at this time, but this is questioned by some authorities.) Early 1560s: Increasing numbers of Christian missionaries, particularly Jesuit priests, begin to arrive in Macau, which becomes an important base for Christian evangelization throughout Asia. 1573: The Chinese construct a barrier wall at the base of the Macau peninsula, preventing access to mainland China. January 23, 1576: The Pope declares the establishment of the Diocese of Macau. 1580: The Portuguese and Spanish crowns are united as Philip II of Spain accedes to the throne of Portugal. All Portuguese territories come under Spanish influence. 1582: Macau’s first legislative body, the Municipal Senate, is formed, and the first Bishop of the Diocese is installed. 1602–1607: The Dutch, hoping to take over the lucrative Portuguese trading routes between China and Japan, make unsuccessful exploratory attacks on Macau. June 1622: The Portuguese resist a significant Dutch invasion. 1623: Macau’s first formal governor, Francesco de Mascarenhas, arrives from Portugal

and initiates major improvements to the region’s defenses. 1639: The Japanese ban trade with the Portuguese, severing an important Portuguese trade route. 1640: King Joa˜o iv becomes king of Portugal, ending almost a century of Spanish domination. Macau, which had pledged allegiance to the Old Royal Portuguese Crown is rewarded with the title “City of the Name of God, None Other More Loyal.” 1641: The Dutch capture Malacca (in what is now called Malaysia), a Portuguese entrepoˆt strategically placed between Baghdad and the Spice Islands. Macau is now cut off from Goa (the capital of Portuguese India), and trade is severely disrupted. Whosoever considers how this city of Macao fell from the peak and summit of its prosperity and ease will find that it was the turn of Fate’s wheel which upset and reversed it: the present poverty being all the greater because whilst it contains so many valuable diamonds, rubies, pearls, seed-pearls, gold, silk, and musk, it is as if there were none since the inhabitants of China care nothing for such things but prize only silver which is today precisely what we lack. Joa˜o Marques Moreires (1644)

1685: An imperial directive from Peking (Bei-

jing) allows foreign trade at all Chinese ports, including Macau, thereby ending the Portuguese monopoly on trade with China. 1688: Portuguese prominence wanes; the Chinese reassert their influence in Macau. A customs office is established and an official appointed to collect duties. 1732: A second customs house is built and a

m a ca u (m a ca o )

Chinese assistant magistrate installed to exercise Chinese authority over legal affairs. 1746: Preaching Christianity to the Chinese in Macau is forbidden. 1767: The Portuguese expel the Jesuits from Macau, following suppression of the order in Portugal. 1796: An imperial edict from Peking (Beijing) places a total ban on all opium activity, but is largely ignored by the Western traders. 1808: The British occupy Macau, under pretense of protecting the area from French attack, but withdraw in late December under combined Portuguese and Chinese pressure. 1839: Lin Zexu is appointed special imperial commissioner for the suppression of the opium trade. He threatens military force if his demands are not complied with. 1844: The Portuguese government combines Timor and Solor (in what is now Indonesia) to form a single administrative Portuguese province. 1845–1849: Governor Ferreiro de Amaral is directed by Lisbon to establish Portuguese influence in the region. The Chinese are taxed and their customs houses destroyed. August 1849: Governor Amaral is assassinated by the Chinese. The Portuguese retaliate by attacking and overwhelming the Chinese fortress of Passeleong. 1851: The Portuguese introduce licensed gambling in Macau, which becomes a major source of revenue. 1850s–1870s: Macau becomes a center for the “coolie” trade. Chinese laborers are sold and shipped overseas in appalling conditions. The trade is eventually abolished in 1873. 1862: The Treaty of Tientsin (Tianjin) recognizing Portuguese sovereignty over the region is negotiated, but the Chinese refuse to ratify it. 1888: The Luso-Chinese Treaty of Friendship is signed, confirming Portugal’s administra-


tion of Macau in perpetuity, but the question of border delimitation is evaded. There is no question that it harbors in its hidden places the riffraff of the world, the drunken shipmasters, the flotsam of the sea, the derelicts and more shameless, beautiful, savage women than any port in the world. It is hell. But to those who whirl in its unending play, it is the one haven where there is never a hand raised or a word said against the play of the beastliest emotions that ever blackened the human heart. Cities of Sin, by Hendrik de Leeuw (1934)

1890: Portuguese integrate nearby Green Is-

land into Macau’s territory. 1928: Portugal and China sign a new Treaty of Friendship, once again avoiding the issue of border delimitation. 1937: Japan invades China as a new influx of refugees arrives in Macau from China. 1949: Victorious Communist forces establish the People’s Republic of China. This city of indulgence need not fear The major sins by which the heart is killed, and governments are torn to pieces: . . . nothing serious can happen here. “Macau,” by W. H. Auden (1939)

1951: Macau joins the UN embargo on ex-

port of strategic goods to China during the Korean War and becomes an important center for gold exchange. 1955: Portugal declares Macau an overseas province, although Chinese officials consider Macau to be a Chinese territory. November 1966–January 1967: Communist China’s Cultural Revolution spills over into the region and severe rioting breaks out. The governor makes a public apology for police intervention and promises compensation.


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1972: China claims Macau in a letter to the

United Nations. April 25, 1974: Military coup d’e´tat in Portugal. The new government seeks a rapprochement with China. 1975: The Portuguese government proposes returning Macau to China, but the offer is declined. Western observers speculate that the Chinese authorities consider Macau an excellent source of foreign currency, and through it, they might quietly import precious metals and other goods from countries with which they officially have no relations. 1976: The Organic Statute (Macau’s constitution) is enacted. It creates a Legislative Assembly of elected and appointed members and gives the territory increased political autonomy. February 1979: Portugal and China sign a secret agreement. It designates Macau a “Chinese territory under temporary Portuguese administration.” February 1984: The Legislative Assembly is dissolved and reformed with equal voting rights granted to all residents. June 30, 1986: Formal negotiations between Portugal and China on the future of Macau begin. April 13, 1987: The Sino-Portuguese Joint Declaration is signed. Under the terms of the declaration, China will assume sovereignty of Macau on December 20, 1999. Full Portuguese citizenship rights are granted to ethnic Chinese and their descendants. The Declaration also allows for the area to be governed as a Special Administrative Region under the principle “one country, two systems,” after the 1999 handover. From our point of view, we were very glad that Portugal accepted a rather easy process for the handing over of Macau to Chinese sovereignty. Deng Xiaoping (1987)

September 1988: A Basic Law Drafting Com-

mittee is formed to establish a constitutionlike document for Macau after 1999.

The Legislative Assembly votes to make Chinese an official language along with Portuguese. June 1989: More than 500,000 demonstrators peaceably protest the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing. September 1990: Governor of Macau Carlos Mantey Melancia resigns, stating that he is unable to cope with the corruption and administrative problems of the region. March 31, 1993: The Basic Law (which is intended to form the basis for the territory’s political, social, economic, and judicial arrangements for the next fifty years) is passed by the National People’s Congress. It remains to be seen, however, whether the Chinese government will honor all of its provisions. September 22, 1996: The last elections for the Legislative Assembly are held before the 1999 handover. Beijing announces that the new legislature will remain in office until the year 2001. July 1997: Macau institutes tougher laws to combat gangs, for the most part fighting turf wars over the profits generated by the gambling casinos and prostitution. These gangs are known as Triads, and are estimated to have some ten thousand members. It is alleged that one reason they are able to flourish is that their leaders reside in mainland China and that members can retreat there after committing crimes. During 1997 at least 20 people are known to have been killed in Macau by gang warfare and related violence. 1998: Gang warfare becomes even more violent as three civil servants are killed and the chief of police barely escapes from a firebombing of his car (May 1). It is now accepted that most residents of Macau are looking forward to the Chinese taking control and enforcing law and order. December 20, 1999: Macau becomes a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. February 1989:

Pa r t Tw o South Asia

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India p ol it ica l h i s t o ry



South Asia—the Indian subcontinent and certain adjacent lands and islands—is a vast region with great diversity in its climate, terrain, ecology, and other environmental features. Inevitably, then, it is impossible to set down generalizations that apply to the entire region. But one does hold up: there are no known fossil remains of the early hominids who most certainly are living there at least by about 450,000 b.c. (In fact, stone artifacts dating back as far as some 2,000,000 years have been found in the Pabbi Hills and Riwat in northern Pakistan, but these appear to be isolated instances.) Starting about 450,000 b.c., hominids and then archaic Homo sapiens living in parts of India produce a sequence of stone tools that, with several regional variants, tend to pass through much the same stages (in terms of types and techniques) as in other parts of the world during the Lower, Middle, and Upper Paleolithic periods. At some point, Homo sapiens appears in South Asia, but exactly who these first humans are—where they come from, their physical characteristics, etc.—is as yet unknown. By about 8000 b.c., the stone tools are also associated with rock paintings in caves and rock shelters, yet there are still no known remains of human beings. In the following millennia, communities begin to emerge throughout India, particularly in the northwest that will become Pakistan, and these gradually adopt or develop agriculture, domesticated animals, pottery, and the other elements of what is known as the Neolithic culture. The oldest human fossil remains known in South Asia are dated to about 3000 b.c., and by this time there is emerging in the Indus Valley the network of communities that will constitute the first true civilization of South Asia. 450,000–70,000 B . C .: Hominids (presumably

Homo erectus) apparently live in parts of the Indian subcontinent, for they leave their stone tools in many sites. During this time, these tools pass through much the same stages—crude hand-held choppers to more

diverse and refined tools—as those made by hominids in other parts of the world during this period. Where these hominids came from is not known—possibly from Africa, possibly from the Near East; in any case, by the end of this period, the inhabitants of


in d ia

South Asia are probably like the Neanderthals of Western Europe. 70,000–35,000 B . C .: In various parts of the Indian subcontinent, stone tools of this period testify to the presence of human beings, most of whom settle in or near river valleys. In particular, at Bhimbetka, in the Vindhya Range in central India, many rock shelters and caves show signs of human occupation. Although no human fossils are as yet known, by the end of this period, these people are probably fully evolved Homo sapiens. 35,000–10,000 B . C .: Remains such as stone tools and animal bones at many sites around the Indian subcontinent attest to occupation by people who are most certainly Homo sapiens. 12,000–5000 B . C .: During this period, most people in South Asia continue to obtain nourishment by hunting, fishing, and food gathering. They probably domesticate the dog. They still depend mainly on a fairly specialized stone tool kit but also make weapons, implements, and gear of all kinds from wood and fiber. 8000 B . C . – A . D . 700: Some four hundred rock shelters in a four-square-mile area of central India centered on Bhimbetka are covered with paintings and crayon drawings (using sixteen colors); animals and human figures are the most common subjects, and the paintings tend to divide into two groups— those depicting hunters and food-gatherers, and those depicting fighters, riding on horses and elephants, and using metal weapons. Nothing certain is known about the motives of those who made them, but these paintings do not appear to have a religious or ritualistic purpose; in any case, they provide a graphic record of the way of life of the people in this part of India over many millennia. 7000–3500 B . C .: At Mehrgarh (now in west central Pakistan), people develop the earliest agricultural and pastoral community known

in South Asia. These people make mudbrick houses with storage areas; next to their houses they bury their dead with elaborate beaded ornaments made of marine shells imported from the coast three hundred miles to the south and colored stones from Afghanistan and Central Asia. At first they make baskets for containers, but by about 5500 b.c. people at Mehrgarh make crude pottery, some with painted designs, as well as terracotta figurines. At least by 5000 b.c. they are cultivating barley and wheat and making small stone querns to grind grains; they are also shifting from hunting wild game to raising sheep, goats, and humped zebu, a species of cattle. Other inhabited sites in India of this period include Adamgarh, Bagor, and Koldihawa. 3500–2600 B . C .: By 3500 b.c. craftsmen at Mehrgarh are making painted pottery with the potter’s wheel and high-temperature kilns. Elsewhere in India, but especially in the Indus Valley region, agriculturally based settlements are appearing; at sites such as Rehman Dheri, Nausharo, and Harappa, mud-brick perimeter walls serve either as access control, fortifications, or flood protection. People are making simple huts and maintaining hearths; some make shrines for a mother goddess; some bury their dead with great care. Regional variations in cultures are emerging, as indicated by various painted designs on pottery and different types of clay figurines. Some of these places exchange food, raw materials, finished goods, and technological knowledge, and some people must be working as traders. Various specialized crafts are appearing and copper begins to be used for spearheads, arrowheads, earrings, chisels, needles, and other small objects. Most suggestive are the many seals made of bone, terracotta, and fired steatite and bearing geometric symbols; they were probably pressed on soft clay to declare ownership or just for decoration. Pot-

Political History

ters also mark their wares with symbols and people scratch graffiti on them; it is possible that this practice may serve as the basis for


an early form of writing. The first examples of a distinctive Indus script are on potsherds from Harappa, dated to about 2800 b.c.

I N D U S C I V I L I Z AT I O N : 3 0 0 0 – 1 7 0 0


The Indus or Harappan civilization, marked by the development of the first known cities in South Asia, is the first of India’s great urban periods. Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa are among the largest and best known of the hundreds of cities, towns, and villages that support an extremely high standard of living, a network of trade routes extending to Mesopotamia and Egypt, and advanced technology. The Harappan civilization is notable for its system of writing, city planning, advanced water systems, standard weights and measures, and fine carving. Nevertheless, this is still prehistoric India, for the Harappan script is as yet undeciphered, and the available evidence is archaeological. Historians generally divide the Harappan civilization into three periods: Early Harappan (c. 3000–2600 b.c.), Mature Harappan or Urban Phase (c. 2600–2000 b.c.), and Late Harappan (c. 2000–1700 b.c.). Many sites along the Indus and Sarasvati river systems show signs of continuous occupation through these periods, but a dramatic cultural shift occurs quite suddenly c. 2600–2500 b.c. as Harappan cities appear. Mature Harappan culture comes to dominate almost half a million square miles straddling the modern India-Pakistan border. The largest Bronze Age civilization of the Old World, it is twice the size of contemporary Egypt or the Mesopotamian city-states and larger than modern Pakistan. Although the Harappans gradually advance southward, this is essentially a north Indian story. Relatively little is known about the Stone Age peninsular settlements of the period, even less about the earliest settlers in eastern India. Throughout its thousand-year history the culture displays a remarkable integrity. Modern historians have theories but no certain knowledge of the political system that creates the standardization and relative homogeneity found over such a broad geographical range, and the remarkable stability of Harappan script and city planning over many centuries. It is, however, evidently a peaceful society. The reasons for the decline of this civilization are unclear. No evidence survives of decisive regional cataclysms or attacks. Rather, Harappan cities suffer a gradual decay of social order and degradation of their material culture, and are then abandoned. At the same time, refugees from sweeping Indo-European immigration from the northwest, and then the immigrants themselves, become predominant in northern India. The Harappans do, however, leave as permanent legacies to Indian culture their village life and ecology, ethnicity, some religious practices, costumes, artistic motifs, and possibly, in the Dravidian tongues of south India, their language. 3102 B . C .: Traditional date of the Mahabhar-

ata War (although historians trace it to war in 900 b.c.). 3000–2600 B . C .: Development of Early Harappan culture along the Indus Valley. Rapid cultural change is spurred by immigration

from southern Turkmenistan into Sind and Rajasthan. Characteristic walled towns and cities are constructed throughout the Indus and Sarasvati River valleys to eastern Punjab, south as far as Kutch. Major sites include Harappa, Mohenjo-Daro, Ganweriwalla,


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Kot Diji, Jalilpur, Kalibangan, ChanhuDaro, and Amri. Many settlements, especially in Punjab and Haryana, remain stable Early Harappan cultures throughout the third millennium. The two major ethnic groups in Early Harappan culture, presumably ancestors of present-day Indians, are people of Mediterranean type (tall frame, long head, narrow noses) and people similar to proto-Australoids (flat nose, thick lips). 2900 B . C .: The earliest known settlements in the Southern Neolithic period originate in northern Karnataka and western Andhra Pradesh, and include Brahmagiri, Tekkalakota, Utnur, Nagarajunikonda, and numerous other sites. Seminomadic pastoral culture with domesticated cattle, sheep, and goats spreads south and east throughout the peninsula during the third millennium and continues through the second millennium. Material culture includes black-on-red painted and gray pottery, stone axes and blades, and bone points. 2800–2100 B . C .: Pre-Indus culture: the earliest settlements on the subcontinent are created by seminomadic herders of Baluchistan hill cultures in the Makran and Brahui hills in present-day Pakistan. Sites include Vale of Quetta, Nal, Gumla, Kulli, Amri, and Zhob. Inhabitants of these settlements practice mixed farming, raising wheat, millet, sheep, goats, and Indian cattle. Mud-brick dwellings, stone and metal tools, terracotta and small stone objects mark the material culture of the period. Various village cultures continue largely unchanged as neighboring Harappan culture rises and flourishes for hundreds of years. 2600–2000 B . C .: Concentration of the population in cities throughout northern India marks the development of Mature Harappan culture or the Urban Phase. Some cities are built over existing settlements, whereas others are new; hundreds of sites from the period are currently known. The largest cities are Mohenjo-Daro, Harappa, Ganweriwalla,

Rakhigiri, and Dholavira. They are comparable in size—with a population of perhaps 25,000 to 30,000 each—and apparently equal in status. 2600–2000 B . C .: Mature Harappan culture expands along the Makran Coast, eastward through Punjab toward Ganges-Yamuna Doab (Rupar), and southward into Kutch and Kathiawar (Rangpur, Lothal, Somnath). Other major sites include Kalibangan and Chanhu-Daro. Hundreds of smaller towns and villages dot rivers and other trade routes in fertile agricultural areas, mostly in the Indus and Sarasvati river systems and along the coast. Harappans interact with neighboring Stone and Bronze Age settlements, though the nature of these relationships is not yet understood. Citadels and public buildings evidence rise of civic authority in cities; however, the nature of their political or administrative systems is not yet understood, nor is the relation of cities to villages. Despite relative cultural uniformity through a large geographical area and cultural stability, Harappan civilization appears not to be governed by a centralized state; some modern historians propose a “complex chiefdom.” 2500 B . C .: Traditional date of the first IndoEuropean, or Aryan, immigration. The term Aryans covers many tribes whose eastward migration lasts for centuries; their precise origin and migratory course, unclear from the archaeological record, occasion much scholarly debate, but their likeliest homeland is the southern Russian steppes. Some recent scholars question the prominent role assigned to these so-called Aryan immigrants in the subsequent development of culture in India. 2500–2000 B . C .: Bronze Age Banas Culture in fertile Rajasthan and Malwa, at fringes of Harappan civilization. Mixed agricultural settlements farm wheat, millet, rice, and cattle and use bronze much as do neighboring Harappans; but Banas people are distinguished by black and red pottery and evi-

Political History

dently observe a different religion. The exact link between Banas and Harappan cultures is still uncertain. 2350–650 B . C .: Neolithic culture at Burzahom, Kashmir, has no Aryan or South Asian parallels. Pit dwellings and polished stone axes suggest an affinity with Central and North Asian cultures. 2000 B . C .: Peninsular settlements expand, with regional variations, in Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu; major sites include Sonegaon and Chandoli. Organized into tribal chiefdoms, pastoral-agriculturalists raise varied crops (wheat, cotton, flax, millet, lentils) and domestic animals. Copper metallurgy, some craft specialization, and trade exist. 2000–1700 B . C .: Late Harappan period. Many Indus Valley cities appear to deteriorate and


be abandoned. Much of population evidently migrates south and eastward, building new, smaller settlements in east Punjab and Gujarat. Among explanations proposed by modern historians for decline of Harappan civilization are invasion; disruption of agriculture and trade by changes in Indus and Sarasvati river systems; and gradual agricultural failure after centuries of intensive cultivation. Evidence fails to support any one cause. 2000–1700 B . C .: Nomadic Indo-European peoples in a great diaspora from Central Asia employ horses and superior weaponry to overrun settlements in Baluchistan hills. During the next three centuries Baluchi refugees flock into Indus cities; overpopulation coincides with breakdown of civic order and decline of civilization.

VEDIC PERIOD: 1700–600


The defining event of this period—and one of the pivotal events of Indian history—is the great inward migration of seminomadic Indo-European tribes through the northwest frontier. Generations of scholars have not definitively settled the debate over the origins and movements of these peoples; some modern scholars deemphasize the role of the outsiders and emphasize the continuity of indigenous cultural developments. Aryan culture represents a break with that of the indigenous people. The Aryan sacrificial religion, called Brahmanism or Vedism, pervasive in every aspect of life, is to play a key role in shaping the cultural life of the subcontinent. Its great texts—the Vedas, Brahmanas, and Upanishads—become the foundation texts for the emergence of Hinduism, one of the most profound influences on Indian history and culture. In the absence of much contemporary archaeological or material evidence, Vedic literature is the primary historical source for the period. The texts show Vedic civilization to be the basis for classical Indian civilization, the foundation of schools of philosophy, law, ethics, and India’s great Vedic sciences: math, astronomy, and medicine. Also of lasting consequence is the introduction of the Indo-Aryan language, the source of Sanskrit and many of India’s numerous colloquial languages and literatures. Finally, Aryan class structure—in particular, its division into varnas, or castes—permanently imbeds hierarchy into Indian society. This is northern Indian history: the immigrants spend centuries settling the Indus and Ganges regions before fanning out into eastern and south India. (Less is known of peninsular India, which remains in the Stone Age nearly to the end of the period.) Of the indigenous peoples, many Dravidians are pushed southward; others coexist with the newcomers, their cultures gradually commingling. Newly introduced iron technology is used to clear the thick forests of the Gangetic plain for cultivation. Increased yields of plow and irrigation agriculture in turn permit a rapid expansion


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of population and a second period of urbanization. These occur alongside a major political change as identification with clan gives way to territorial affiliation. The regional powers and warring kingdoms that arise set the stage for many centuries of conflict. 1750–900 B . C .: Post-Urban/Post-Harappan pe-

riod. The quality of material culture declines sharply in Punjab and Sind; makeshift settlements are built over earlier Harappan sites as their populations revert to village life. Some individual settlements (e.g., Cemetery H in the Indus region and successful Jhukar and Jhangar cultures in Sind; Iron Age Londo Ware settlements in Baluchistan) show local influence of distinct Harappan, Aryan, or Iranian culture. Ganges Doab is broadly settled by uniform Copper Hoard Culture. 1700–1100 B . C .: In the final movement of their great migration, Indo-European tribes calling themselves arya (“noble”) advance from Iran into Indus River highlands and eastward along Ganges; they settle Sapta Sindhu (“Land of the Seven Rivers”) region in present-day Punjab and Rajasthan. 1700–900 B . C .: Patriarchal, patrilineal family organization is permanently established in India. Supremacy of males and elders: extended families are based on male kinship and property divided among sons. Vanquished indigenous dasas (an Indo-European word originally meaning “darkskinned person” and probably referring to Harappans) and their mixed-race descendants are treated as inferiors and sometimes enslaved. By the end of the period, Vedic religion sanctions a fourth varna (caste): shudras (laborers) associated with the color black. 1500–800 B . C .: Their military superiority— horse-drawn chariots, bronze axes, and longbows—enables Indo-Europeans to conquer Harappan cities. Amid constant intertribal conflict and warfare with the indigenous people, Harappan settlements are destroyed and abandoned. Conquest and assimilation of different groups characterize Early Vedic period as coexisting Aryan and indigenous Dravidian cultures begin to converge.

May we enjoy the vitalizing force of God, the radiant; may he grant us wealth! He is the God who sends to rest and wakens all life that moves on two feet or on four. Rig Veda (VI, 71), ancient Hindu religious text (c. 1500–1200 b.c.)

Little is known about the Indo-Europeans’ political organization, but tribal groups (janas) are ruled by rajas whose primary function is leadership in war. They are advised by warriors and tribal assemblies (sabha and samiti) and supported by tribute and loot. Chiefdom gradually gives rise to hereditary kingship. c. 1200 B . C .: Traditional date for the great Battle of Ten Kings (Dasarajna). Sudas, king of the Bharatas, the most powerful Indo-European clan, defeats confederated Aryan tribes led by Vishvamitra. Bharatas, Purus, and Kurus subsequently amalgamate into a single, dominant tribe, the Kuru-Pancalas. 1200–800 B . C .: Environment in the Indus system deteriorates; Post-Urban settlements are abandoned as regions in Sarasvati Valley, Saurashtra, and Maharashtra become desert. Standards of living decline in these southern areas as inhabitants revert to nomadic pastoralism. 1000 B . C .: Indo-Europeans reach the region of modern Delhi. Aryavarta (Land of Aryans) eventually stretches from present-day Afghanistan eastward to Ganges-Yamuna Doab. Constant warfare obtains among immigrant peoples competing for agricultural lands and forests of Aryavarta; combatants comprise foot soldiers armed chiefly with longbows. Chief among numerous immigrant peoples is the Bharata clan. Others in north India include the Kuru-Pancalas and their major rivals in the Ganges basin, the Kasis,

Political History

Kosalas, and Videhas. Madras, Gandharas, Kekayas, and Kambojas populate the west; Magadhas, Angas, Vangas, the eastern regions. 1000–600 B . C .: Indo-Europeans occupy a huge area from the Himalayas to the Vindhya Range, from the Arabian Sea to the Bay of Bengal. Migrations into India continue through the northwest passes. Dravidians are pushed further south; some migrate to Mesopotamia. Numerous cultural and ethnic groups and warring peoples coexist, including indigenous groups (notably the Andhras) and peoples of mixed race. 1000–500 B . C .: The second great period of urbanization comes as cities arise throughout Punjab and Gangetic Plain, serving as centers for administration and artisan production. The Pandu capital at Indraprastha (ancient Delhi) and the Kuru-Pancalas capital at Hastinapura in Kurukshetra region north of Delhi are founded c. 1000 b.c. A major flood forces the abandonment of Hastinapura c. ninth century b.c. 900 B . C .: Great War in Kurukshetra depicted


in Mahabharata (“Great Bharatha”) between Kaurava (Kuru) and Pandava (Pandu) tribal alliances (the traditional date of this war is 3102 b.c.). Widely regarded as the end of an era, this war survives for thousands of years in folk memory as a war involving the whole of India. 800–550 B . C .: During the Late Vedic period, Indo-Europeans colonize a huge territory from the original Sapta Sindhu region eastward to Bengal and Orissa and southward toward Deccan. Indigenous forest-dwellers remain on margins of Aryan civilization. In a historic move, the center of power and cultural development shifts eastward from Punjab to Ganges-Yamuna Doab. Tribal society largely gives way to geographical political organization. Most important kingdoms are those ruled by Kurus and Pancalas in upper Ganges and, to the east, by Kosalas, Kasis, and Videhas. They are surrounded by numerous small kingdoms with their own capitals and administrative structures.


B.C. –A.D.


The key political development in this period is the emergence in north India of territorial states. The many hundreds of warring groups and families of the Vedic period are now replaced by hundreds of unstable states rising and disappearing during centuries of constant warfare over territory and power. Ambiguous sources, conflicting calendars, and extreme political fragmentation make this a challenging period for historians. The broad political outlines are known. Of the warring states, Magadha achieves supremacy throughout the north, paving the way for the great Mauryans, founders of the first pan-Indian empire. In their wake, north and south India are divided into separate kingdoms, to remain so until their reunification under the Mughals. India’s northwest frontier is invaded during these few centuries by Greeks, Persians, Scythians, Parthians, and the migrating Yuezhi, all successful in varying degrees in conquest and domination. Gradually, these foreigners are amalgamated and absorbed into existing cultural patterns. Buddhism and Jainism arise in reaction against Brahmanism, and their scriptures and doctrines are defined. Buddhism inspires the finest art of the period—and some of the finest ever produced in India—in the form of stupas (reliquary shrines), rock-cut caves, and stone sculpture. Brahmanism itself evolves into Hinduism: the great Hindu epics, Mahabharata and Ramayana, are composed, as are the Bhagavad Gita and the Sutras. The elaborate Vedic exegetical tradition begins with an explosion of texts, including pivotal works on linguistics and medicine.


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Finally, India actively engages through trade, religious missions, and military encounters with Greece and Rome, West and Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and China. Villages along major trade routes become trading and manufacturing centers, prompting a second great wave of Indian urbanization. The widespread dissemination of Indian culture in Southeast Asia lays the groundwork for the establishment of Buddhism throughout eastern Asia. c. 600 B . C .: Kosala is preeminent among six-

teen great states (mahajanapadas) stretching across north India from present-day Afghanistan to Bengal. Some continue from the Vedic period; others are newly created in increasingly important eastern regions. These states decline after c. mid-4th century b.c. 6th–5th centuries B . C .: Possible date of historical events associated with Ramayana; Rama is generally associated with Iksvaku kings of Kosala and contemporary events in central India. 6th–5th centuries B . C .: Most north Indian states are kingdoms; about a dozen are oligarchies or republics, including the Vajjian Confederation, Videhas, and Sakyas. These have elected heads of state and supreme assemblies (sometimes numbering in the thousands) with rules governing quorums, voting, and passage of resolutions. Late 6th century B . C .: Newly powerful kingdom of Maghada, its capital Rajagraha (present-day Rajgir), expands into the Gangetic Plain and Bengal under Bimbisara’s rule (c. 544–493 b.c.). Magadhan hegemony in northern India continues for two centuries, its wealth based on control of Ganges trade routes and deposits of iron and copper. And this is the Noble Truth of the way which leads to the Stopping of Sorrow. It is the Noble Eightfold Path—Right Views, Right Resolve, Right Speech, Right Conduct, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration. Samyutta Nikaya, sermon by the Buddha (c. 528 b.c.)

c. 535 B . C .: Cyrus ii of Persia conquers coun-

tries in Kabul Valley and northwest India.

Persian military superiority prompts Indians to create their own cavalry; bows continue to be primary weapons. Elephants are introduced into battle, becoming as militarily important as chariots. c. 518–507 B . C .: Darius i of Persia conquers Gandhara and areas in the mid-Indus region. Under his orders, Greek admiral Scylax explores the Indus River from Kaspapuras to the Arabian Sea, 517–515 b.c. Gandhara and lower Indus are ruled by Persian satraps (provincial governors) until the mid-fourth century. Late 6th century B . C .: First mention of India in Western literature by Hecataeus of Miletus in Periodus. Several decades later, Herodotus gives an account of India in his History. 500 B . C . – A . D . 500: During this period, a series of medical texts will be compiled in India; taken together, they set forth the basic principles and practices of India’s traditional Ayurvedic school of medicine. Ayurveda means “the science of [living to an old] age” and is the name applied to the traditional science of holistic medicine practiced in India for thousands of years. It is also about this time that a collection of hymns known as the Atharvaveda is compiled; most of these texts are spells, many of them designed to cure diseases, thereby revealing Indians’ belief that illness is caused by evil spirits. 5th century B . C .: Full emergence of territorial states ruled by kings or oligarchies with assemblies like sabhas, parisads. Ideas of kingship encompass hereditary succession, power, wealth, status, and elaborate and costly ceremonies. Brahmans and kshatriyas bolster royal authority, but stability is constantly threatened by factionalism.

Political History 5th century B . C .: Migrating Indo-Europeans

reach south India and in centuries following assimilate with indigenous Dravidians. c. 460 B . C .: Near the end of his thirty-year reign, Ajatasatru, son of Bimbisara and king of Magadha, conquers neighboring Kosala and Vajjian Confederation. c. 360–330 B . C .: Mahapadma Nanda, king of Magadha, builds India’s first great historical empire, reaching from Punjab east to Kalinga and south to Deccan. His army is said to number 200,000 infantry, 20,000 cavalry, and thousands of chariots and elephants. 327–326 B . C .: Alexander the Great invades northwest India with an army thirty thousand strong. Defeating Poros, king of Punjab, at great battle of Jhelum, Alexander retreats after his troops mutiny, leaving behind a weak Greek colonial administration. c. 321–297 B . C .: Reign of Chandragupta Maurya, founder of first great Indian empire and of the Mauryan dynasty (c. 321–184 b.c.). He deposes the last Nanda king of Magadha, leads successful revolt of northwest frontier clans against Greek colonial rule, and establishes hegemony over all of north India from Afghanistan to Bengal and reaching well into Deccan. Chandragupta maintains a standing army; his campaign force is reported to number 400,000 to 600,000 infantry, 30,000 cavalry, and 9,000 elephants. He abdicates to become a monk. Late 4th–3d centuries B . C .: Kautilya, according to Indian tradition Chandragupta’s brahman chief minister, writes Arthasastra, a monumental Sanskrit work on political economy and invaluable historical source for early Indian administrative, legal, and military practice. Chandragupta’s complex bureaucracy operates at national, provincial, division, district, and village levels and includes a government judiciary and secret service. His policies and institutions will remain in effect during his successors’ reigns. 305 B . C .: Chandragupta repulses an incursion by the Macedonian-Greek ruler Seleucus i Nicator. In settlement, the Greeks cede a


vast region along the Indus River; Hindu Kush becomes India’s northwest border. Greek ambassador Megasthenes later visits Mauryan court and writes Indika, long the chief source of Western knowledge of India. 3d century B . C .: Under Chandragupta’s rule, Mauryan capital Pataliputra (modern Patna) becomes a metropolitan city of tremendous wealth and grandeur, extends nine miles along the Ganges, moated and surrounded by massive timber palisade. c. 297–269 B . C .: Reign of Chandragupta’s son and successor Bindusara, notable for his conquest of Deccan. c. 269–233 B . C .: Chandragupta’s grandson Ashoka rules at height of Mauryan imperial power. Perhaps India’s most famous ruler, he is pious, benevolent, and wise; his name is invoked to the present day as a symbol of national pride and unity. Now the Beloved of the Gods regrets the conquest of Kalinga, for when an independent country is conquered, people are killed, they die, or are deported, and that the Beloved of the Gods finds very painful and grievous. And this he finds even more grievous—that all the inhabitants—brahmans, ascetics, and other sectarians, and householders who are obedient to superiors, parents, and elders, who treat friends, acquaintances, companions, relatives, slaves, and servants with respect, and are firm in their faith—all suffer violence, murder, and separation from their loved ones. 13th Rock Edict, by Ashoka (c. 260 b.c.)

c. 260 B . C .: Ashoka conquers the eastern king-

dom of Kalinga (Orissa) in the only aggressive war of his reign, consolidating Mauryan rule over the entire subcontinent except Mysore. A huge toll in death and suffering leads him bitterly to regret war and adopt a policy of nonviolence; he is alleged to convert to Buddhism. c. 256–50 B . C .: Bactrian Greeks, or IndoGreeks, invade from their western empire


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and rule states of northern Indus Valley for more than a century from their capital at Bactria. The most famous Indo-Greek king is Milinda (also called Menander, reigned 155–130 b.c.), a convert to Buddhism. Milindapanha (c. 1st century b.c.), a supposed dialogue between Milinda and the Buddhist monk Nagasena, becomes a popular work of Theravada Buddhism. c. 206 B . C .: In last Greek attempt to conquer Indian territory, Seleucid Antiochus iii unsuccessfully invades the Kabul Valley. c. 184 B . C .: Pushyamitra Sunga seizes the Mauryan throne. His dominion over north central India (to c. 145 b.c.) is marked by wars with northern Indo-Greeks and southern Andhras. From time of Sunga sovereignty in Gangetic basin (to c. 75 b.c.) and Satavahana dominion over Deccan (?30 b.c.–a.d. 250; dynastic dates are uncertain), north and south India remain politically divided until the Mughal period. He whose mind is unperturbed in the midst of sorrows and who entertains no desires amid pleasures; he from whom passion, fear, and anger have fled away—he is called a sage of steadfast intellect. He who feels no attachment toward anything; who, having encountered the various good or evil things, neither rejoices nor loathes—his wisdom is steadfast. Bhagavad Gita (2.55-59), traditional Hindu sacred poem c. 100 b.c.–a.d. 300)

c. 100 B . C .: Composition of Manu-Dharma-

sastras, the oldest and most influential version of the code of Hindu law. Based on the Dharma Sutras and transmitted orally, it undergoes revision for eight hundred years. c. 100 B . C . – A . D . 70: Displaced from Central Asia by Chinese migration, the Scythians (also called Sakas) enter northern India in several separate movements. Northern Sakas under Maues (reigned c. 20 b.c.–a.d. 22) overwhelm the Indo-Greek empire. By the

later first century b.c. Sakas are established in a large territory in the upper Indus region. Their chiefs, called satraps, are divided into three major groups, with capitals at Taxila, Sakala, and Mathura. c. 90 B . C . – A . D . 65: Parthians (also called Pahlavas) push eastward from their huge West Asian empire, conquer southern IndoGreeks, reach eastward to the lower Indus Valley. c. 57 B . C .: First year of the Vikrama Era, one of several dozen ancient Indian eras used in dating contemporary inscriptions and documents and one of two still (in north India) in present-day use. c. 20–5 B . C .: Reign of Kharavela, the most powerful of the Maha-Meghavahanas, dynastic rulers of Kalinga. His conquests give him dominion over nearly the whole eastern coast from Kalinga to Mysore. 1st century A . D .: The Yuezhi, Central Asian tribes, migrate through the Hindu Kush (whence their Indian name, Kushans) to northwest India and drive out Northern Sakas and Indo-Parthians. Kadphises i (reigns c. 15–65) founds the Kushan dynasty (to c. 465), which establishes capitals at Purusapura and Mathura and rules a huge north Indian empire stretching from Bactria through the upper Indus to the mid-Ganges region. c. A . D . 60–409: Kingdoms of Western Sakas (also called Great Satraps) are established in a large region of Sind, Kutch, Kathiawar, reaching eastward nearly to Mathura. They are divided into two branches: Western Satraps in west India, their capital at Girinagara; and Ujjaini Satraps, capital at Ujjain. Most powerful of the Ujjaini Sakas is Rudradaman i (reigns c. 130–150). c. 78: First year of the Saka Era, an ancient calendar still in use in south India. Late 1st–2d centuries: Reign of Kanishka, third and greatest Kushan king (the dates of his reign are very uncertain). He conquers a

Political History

huge territory reaching from the Oxus to the Ganges basin and south to Sind, Kutch, and Saurashtra, with capitals at Peshawar and Mathura; his empire coexists with many tribal states. His expeditions against China are unsuccessful. c. 106–130: Reign of Gautamiputra Satakarni, greatest king of the Hindu Satavahana (also


called Andhra) dynasty. Conquests of Western Sakas and Kushans extend his Upper Deccan kingdom from Kathiawar and southern Saurashtra all the way across the peninsula to the east coast. Styled “overlord of the Deccan,” he rules from his capital at Pratisthana (modern Paithan) over a kingdom made prosperous by trade and agriculture.

N E W E M P I R E S I N N O RT H A N D S O U T H : 3 0 0 – 7 0 0 This period is India’s classical age. North and north central India are united for 250 years under Gupta rule in the first major empire since the Mauryas. With few exceptions, the subcontinent is otherwise occupied during the period by warring states, in later years complicated by invasions from northwest. Brief Huna (known in the West as Huns) rule in northernmost India and the Arab conquest of Sind at the end of the period herald the foreign rule to come. Royal patronage and political stability under the Guptas promote a flowering of Sanskrit learning. Literature, art, architecture, philosophy, mathematics, and astronomy flourish. Secular Sanskrit literature enjoys its golden age as Kalidasa, generally acknowledged to be finest Indian writer of all time, and a host of other writers produce plays, poems, and prose works in popular and scholarly genres. Underpinning this artistic efflorescence is a revival of the Hindu religion. Brahmans, gaining power and prestige through royal grants of land, embark on a program of temple building. To this period belong the first structural temples in India, embellished with representations of gods and goddesses acknowledged by most experts to be the finest Indian sculpture ever produced. The foundation of orthodox Hinduism is laid during these centuries. The Puranas, elaborating the central philosophy and practice of Hinduism, take their final form. Bhakti cults, chief among them Vaishnavism and Saivism, bring simple devotion to the forefront of religious life, defining a new Hindu pantheon, hymnology, and worship. c. 320: Chandragupta i (reigns c. 320–335),

attempting to replicate Mauryan imperial glory, founds the Gupta dynasty (c. 320–647) in the Ganges Valley and Magadha. Alliances with neighboring Licchavis and Vakatakas cement Gupta power over north India. The old Mauryan capital of Pataliputra (modern-day Patna) becomes the Gupta capital; Saketa (modern-day Ayodhya) and Prayaga (Allahabad) are major imperial centers. 335: Death of Vakataka king Pravarasena (reigns 275–335). The Vakataka dynasty (c. 255–510), successors to the Satavahanas in the Deccan, reaches its greatest power dur-

ing his reign; after his death the kingdom is divided among his heirs. c. 335–376: The reign of Chandragupta’s son Samudragupta is notable for the king’s tireless military campaigning and expansion of empire. He conquers the entire Aryavarta, directly ruling the central Ganges Valley and exerting weaker authority over tributary states stretching northward all the way into Gandhara, Punjab, and Nepal and eastward into Assam. His expeditions into south India are unsuccessful; the Vindhya hills form the southern boundary of empire. c. 375–414: The Gupta empire reaches its height under Chandragupta ii. He imposes


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hegemony over the whole of north and north central India, gaining significant revenue from west coast ports. The most powerful neighboring kingdoms are Kushans to northwest, Licchavis to northeast, and Vakatakas in central Deccan. The empire declines after his reign as a result of the Guptas’ decentralized administration, foreign invasions, and succession disputes. Early 5th century: Pallavas in eastern Deccan move into vacuum left by decline of Gupta power, establish suzerainty over Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh; Kanchipuram is their capital. The Pallava dynasty (c. 300–888) becomes one of the preeminent Deccan powers, supported in large part by revenues from trade with southeast Asia. c. 5th–6th centuries: Compilation of SivaDhanur-veda, the great Sanskrit military classic based on the Arthasastra.

But what am I saying? In real truth, this barkdress, Though ill-suited to her figure, sets it off like an ornament. The lotus with the Saivala entwined Is not a whit less brilliant: dusky spots Heighten the luster of the cold-rayed moon; This lovely maiden in her dress of bark Seems all the lovelier. Even the meanest garb Gives to true beauty fresh attractiveness. Sakuntala, a drama by Kalidasa (c. a.d. 450)

457: Skandagupta (reigns 454–467) defeats in-

vading Hunas, but their repeated invasions from the northwest fatally weaken the Guptas. 500–550: Huna kings including Toramana (reigns 500–510) and Mihirakula (reigns 510–530) temporarily subjugate Punjab and Kashmir, extinguishing the Gupta empire. Hunas are in turn defeated (c. 550) by allied Hindu princes, and north India reverts to numerous small kingdoms. Waves of other Central Asians, including Gurjaras, Sassan-

ians, and Kushans, follow into northwest India in the Hunas’ wake. c. 550: Early Chalukya dynasty (to c. 757) founded in northern Karnataka by Pulakesin (reigns 550–566). The Chalukyas are the most powerful of the southern ruling families; different branches of the family control various areas of west and central Deccan from their centers at Aihole, Badami, and Pattadakal. c. 556: Simhavishnu (reigns c. 556–589) ascends Pallava throne. Northern campaigns against the Cholas, Gangas, and Chalyukas, and southern operations against the Pandyas and Cheras (Keralas) enlarge Pallava dominion to its greatest extent during his reign. Late 6th century: Beginning of Pallava-Chalukya wars in Deccan under Chalukya kings Kirtivarman i (reigns 566–597) and Mangalesa (reigns 597–608). c. 600–630: Reign of greatest Pallava king, Mahendravarman I. He fights Chalukyas (608–625), turns back Harsha’s Deccan invasion, and defeats neighboring Cholas, Pandyas, and Cheras. 606–647: Conquests of King Harsha of Sthanvishvara (modern-day Thaneswar), Punjab, create a new empire stretching from the Himalayas to the Vindhyas, from Gujarat to Bengal. The imperial capital of Kanyakubja (Kanauj) becomes a wealthy city. A Deccan campaign against the Chalukyas (620) fails to extend sovereignty to south India. His short-lived empire fractures after his death, and north India once again reverts to smaller kingdoms. 608–625: Chalukya-Pallava war in northeast Deccan. Pallavas extend their territory to east coast, then head south. 608–642: Reign of the greatest Chalukya king, Pulakesin ii. In northern and eastern campaigns early in his reign, he extends territory to east coast, important for its trade revenues; Chalukyas dominate the northern peninsula, repulse an invasion by Harsha (620).

Political History 625–630: Chalukyas defeat Pallavas in war in

south Deccan. 629–645: Xuanzang (600–664), a Buddhist pilgrim from China, travels throughout Harsha’s empire as well as Pallava and Chalukya kingdoms. His Record of Western Regions is a valuable account of seventh-century India. Indo-Chinese religious, diplomatic, and trade exchanges are numerous during this period, and include several formal embassies from Tang emperors to Harsha’s court. 630–642: Pallavas are resurgent in Chalukya


war; Pallava king Narasimharvarman i (reigns c. 630–668) defeats Pulakesin ii at the Chalukya capital at Vatapi and sacks the city. Pulakeshin ii’s son Vikramaditya later avenges this act by sacking the Pallava capital at Kanchi (674). c. 650: Gurjaras, Central Asian nomads, establish themselves in Rajasthan to become the most powerful northern kingdom. c. 650–707: Arabs conquer Sind. 655: Chalukya king Vikramaditya I defeats Pandyas and Cholas after a long war.

REGIONAL KINGDOMS: 700–1200 Regionalism is the major political theme of this period as dynastic states engage in incessant warfare. Their ruling families and armies are remarkably resilient over decades, even centuries of fighting, receding after major defeats only to regroup and reappear as major powers years later. A few groups dominate the period: the Chalukyas and Rastrakutas in the Deccan; the Palas in the eastern region of Bengal and Bihar; and the Pallavas, Pandyas, and mighty Cholas in the peninsula. They are surrounded by hundreds of feudatories and lesser kingdoms, notably the emerging Rajput states of north and central India. Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and ancient sacrificial religions coexist, but in a great Hindu revival, Jainism and Buddhism are pushed to the periphery of the subcontinent. As Brahmanism spreads, the brahmanical priestly caste comes to occupy a preeminent position in India’s social and economic hierarchy. The artistic and cultural riches of the period are characterized, like the politics, by regional variation. Among the three most outstanding artistic achievements are the earliest of India’s great structural temples, the magnificent bronze sculptures created by Chola artists, and a profusion of new vernacular languages and literatures. Intellectually, India’s greatest contribution is in mathematics, undertaken in support of astronomy and representing the most advanced work in the world. Successful Turkish invasions in the late twelfth century displace Hindu rajas across northern India and brahmans in power in Bengal. Northern India enters a period of Islamic rule. 8th century: In the Tamil region of Deccan,

Pallavas of Kanchipuram and Pandyas of Madurai are at the height of their power. In a protracted three-way contest, the Pallavas, Pandyas, and Chalukyas struggle for supremacy. 712: The Arab conquerors of Sind (presentday western Pakistan), establish the first Islamic state in the subcontinent. Over the following decades, Arab invasions of Rajpu-

tana and Gujarat are repelled by Gurjaras; Arab traders and sufis (teachers) settle in India. c. 730–750: During the reign of King Lalitaditya, Kashmir becomes the leading power in Punjab. c. 753: In Deccan, Rastrakutas overthrow Chalukyas of Vatapi, ending their two hundred-year-old dynasty; Dandidurga founds the Rastrakuta dynasty (c. 753–973). After


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making rapid territorial gains in south India, Rastrakutas become the first Deccan kings to campaign in the north. c. 760s: Rise of Palas as their ruler, Gopala, extends his dominion throughout Bengal, Bihar, and Assam. His successors Dharmapala (reigns c. 770–810) and Devapala (reigns 810–850) consolidate rule. A major northern power for several centuries (c. 750– 1185), the Pala kingdom is known for its prosperity and cultural sophistication. c. 780–793: Reign of Rastrakuta king Dhruva. His conquests of Gurjara-Pratihara and Pala kingdoms begin the “tripartite struggle” for control of Kanyakubja (Kanauj) and the Ganges Valley trade routes; the contest continues for more than a hundred years. 800–1200: Rise of Rajput kingdoms in central India and Rajasthan. Rulers claim to be from kshatriya warrior caste, and martial Rajput states fight against each other as well as the northern invaders. The four major dynasties among the many small Rajput kingdoms are Pratiharas of Kanauj, Paramaras of Malwa, Chauhans of Delhi and Ajmer, and Chalukyas of Gujarat. c. 850: Rise of the Chola dynasty (c. 850–1278) in Thanjavur under King Vijayala (reigns c. 850–870). c. 888: Alliance of Chalukyas and recently emerged Chola kingdom defeats Pallavas and divides their territory; six hundred-yearold Pallava dynasty gives way to Chola ascendancy in Tamil country. Chola king Parantaka i (reigns 907–953) defeats the Pandyas, Pallavas, and Sinhalese, consolidating a large southern empire from the Pennar River to Cape Comorin. 890–910: During the reign of King Mahendrapala, the Gurjara-Pratihara kingdom (c. 773–1027) establishes hegemony over the whole of north India with the exception of Arab-ruled Sind, Pala Bengal, and Kashmir. Pratiharas prove unable to fend off Rastrakuta attacks, however, and by the mid-tenth century north India is once again divided among warring states.

916: Indra iii, king of Rastrakuta (reigns 914–

927), occupies Kanyakubja, but his northern dominion is short-lived as sporadic rebellions and southern campaigns against the Cholas preoccupy the monarchy. Rastrakuta power wanes rapidly after his reign. c. 973: From his base in Bijapur, Taila ii (reigns 973–997) overthrows the Rastrakuta dynasty and founds the Later Chalukya dynasty (c. 973–1189). The Later Chalukyas dominate the west Deccan for two hundred years; they wage numerous military campaigns against the Cholas. 985–1014: Reign of the outstanding Chola king, Rajaraja i. He annexes northern Sri Lanka, Pandya and Chera territory, Vengi, Kalinga, the Maldives, and the Malabar Coast, creating a peninsular empire and giving the Cholas a virtual monopoly over maritime trade routes to Southeast Asia, Arabia, East Africa, and China. c. 988–1038: Last period of Pala strength in Bihar and Bengal during reign of Mahipala. c. 990: Sabuktagin of Ghazni, a Turkic state between Kabul and Kandahar, seizes Peshawar. 998–1030: Sabuktagin’s son Mahmud of Ghazni (971–1030), one of the greatest Asian generals in history, leads some seventeen raids into northwest India; the plunder he carries away pays for the campaigns by which he creates a huge Central Asian kingdom. Known as “the Sword of Islam,” Mahmud leads a Turkic cavalry armed with crossbows that overwhelms the Indians; he defeats the raja of Lahore, sacks Thaneswar (1014) and Kanauj (1018), and despoils numerous wealthy Hindu temples, including Kangra (1009), Lahore (1015), Mathura (1018), Kanauj (1019), Gwalior (1022), and Somnath (1025). He finally destroys the Pratihara dynasty (1027). Early 11th century: Islamic scholar al-Biruni (973–1048), sent to India by Mahmud of Ghazni, spends several years in Punjab studying Sanskrit texts. His Ta’rikh al-Hind (Enquiry into India), a scientific exposition

Political History

of Indian history, science, and culture, is a primary source for historians of the period. 1014–1044: Rajendra i (“the Great”) rules at the height of Chola empire in a reign marked by far-flung warfare and conquest. He annexes Raichur Doab and southern Sri Lanka; in a famous northern campaign he marches up the east coast to defeat Palas in Bengal (1021–1022) and undertakes a victorious naval campaign against the kingdom of Srivijaya (in Malaya and Sumatra) to protect trade with China (1025). 1030: Ghaznavids conquer Punjab, establishing Islam in that province and creating a base for operations deeper into India. 1076–1147: Kalinga (Orissa) becomes a major power during the reign of Anantavarman Chodaganga, controlling the east coast between the Ganges and Godavari rivers. Early 12th century: The Hoysala kingdom (1047–1327) rises to dominate territory west of the Chola kingdom (present-day Mysore) during the reign of Visnuvardhana. Chalukyas, Cholas, and the emerging Yadava kingdom are the Hoysalas’ major rivals. 1142–1173: Reign of Kumarapala, king of Chalukyas in Gujarat. He consolidates a large Rajput confederation (until c. 14th century). 1175: On their first expedition into India, Ghurid Turks led by Muhammad of Ghur (reigns 1173–1206) defeat Ghazni Turks in Punjab. Ghurids gradually displace Ghazni Turks in northern India, capturing Peshawar


(1179) and Lahore (1186) before turning their sights on Indian kingdoms further to the south. Alms-giving is an ordinance of God, incumbent upon every person who is free, sane, adult, and a Muslim, provided he be possessed, in full property, of such estate or effects as are termed in the language of the law a minimum, and that he has been in possession of the same for the space of one complete year. . . . The reason why the Muslim faith is made a condition is that the rendering of alms is an act of piety, and such cannot proceed from an infidel. Hidaya (Guidance), Islamic legal work for India by Maulana Burhan ud-din Marghinanai (c. 1180)

1191: Muhammad of Ghur invades Thanes-

war. Rajput coalition led by Prithviraja iii, king of Delhi and Ajmer, defeats the Turks at first battle of Tarain. 1192: Turkish rule in India begins after Muhammad of Ghur again invades and defeats Prithviraja iii at second battle of Tarain. Ghurid general Qutb ud-Din Aibak creates the first unified empire in northern India since the Guptas; Turkish cavalry, with its modern weaponry and military tactics, overruns faction-ridden, disorganized, and poorly equipped Indian armies in a sweep through Kanauj (1193), Varanasi and Gwalior Fort (1194), Bihar (1196), and Bengal (early 1200s).

D E L H I S U LT A N AT E : 1 2 1 1 – 1 5 2 6 The Delhi sultanate is the first period in which Islamic kingdoms figure substantially in the political life of the subcontinent. By the end of the period a number of other Islamic states in addition to Delhi, including Bengal, Malwa, and Gujarat, have established independent sovereignty in northern India. Their policies are shaped by state interests rather more than by religious dogma, but the introduction of Islam to India exerts a profound influence on the social, political, and cultural life of the subcontinent that continues to the present day. Although a number of Delhi sultans are careful to obtain patents from the eastern caliph, they are for all practical purposes sovereign, serving as military and political chiefs and courts of last appeal. Five dynasties of sultans in Delhi preside at the apex of a tiered administration:


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provincial governors have a good deal of autonomy, while beneath them is the traditional local machinery of Hindu headmen and tax collectors. Successive reforms of revenue and civil administration during this period lay the groundwork for the sweeping Mughal reforms of the sixteenth century. This is a period of personal rule, with kingdoms utterly dependent on the rulers’ will and pleasure. Despite administrative reforms, no enduring governmental structure is created; every succession is a crisis, and most are settled by force. The Delhi sultans are very much warriorkings, operating according to conventions that strike modern Western observers as savage. Enemies are routinely blinded or killed. Plunder is a common means of financing the operations of the state. Territorial instability marks the period of the Delhi sultans. Territory is continually gained and lost through raids, warfare, internal rebellions, and land grabs in which near-family members are often the most aggressive combatants. Turkish nobles, provincial governors, and Hindus alike are in constant rebellion, and soon after the empire reaches its greatest extent in the 1330s, large independent kingdoms break away in Gujarat, Bengal, and the Deccan. At the same time, the sultans are largely successful in holding off repeated raids by Mongol hordes numbering many tens of thousands. Although Buddhism fades from India during the time that Islam is introduced, Hinduism thrives. Bhakti poet-saints spread their mystical teachings from the south all the way across central and northern India; an outpouring of devotional lyrics in indigenous languages marks the beginning of India’s rich regional literatures. Islam, though present in the subcontinent for five hundred years, is now introduced to the Indian heartland not by Arabs but Turks, a historical accident with enormous cultural significance. The tastes of the Turkish sultans are tinged with Persian influence; the mosques, palaces, and tombs that they build in such numbers introduce to the subcontinent the soaring domes and arches that Mughal architects will make completely their own. 1206: The slave general Qutb ud-Din Aibak

becomes the first sultan of Delhi (to 1210); he begins a long line of Turkish rulers of India. The conqueror of much of northern India and subsequently viceroy of India under Shihab ud-Din Ghuri, Qutb ud-Din succeeds to the throne after Shihab’s assassination. Turkish slave officers dominate his government. In a decision with historic consequences, he fixes the capital at Delhi. He dies in a polo accident. 1210: Iltutmish (reigns 1210–1235), manumitted slave and provincial governor of Qutb ud-Din, seizes throne and founds the Mamluk, or slave-king, empire (1210–1290). An able general and administrator, he proves the greatest of early Delhi sultans: he conquers Punjab (1217), Sind (1228), and Malwa; reconquers Ranthambhor (1226) and Gwalior (1232); and deploys a large standing army

to contain constant threats and outright incursions by Chinggis Khan and neighboring Persians. His land revenue reforms, the first of several throughout the dynasty, prefigure the great administrative reforms of the Mughals. 1229: A patent from the caliph of Baghdad legitimates Iltutmish’s rule. Indian Muslims, now technically part of the Abbasid caliphate, are isolated when Mongols overrun the Baghdad caliphate in 1258. The Delhi sultans manage to hold the Mongols at bay for more than a century, largely preserving India from the massacres and devastation that follow Mongol conquests elsewhere. 1236–1240: Raziyya, daughter of Iltutmish, is the only woman ever to occupy the throne of Delhi in her own right. At the head of her army, she quells rebellion in Punjab, but is deposed and executed by Turkish nobles opposed to female rule.

Political History 1266–1287: Reign of Balban. Former mem-

ber of “The Forty,” a famous group of Turkish slaves who dominate the government at the court of Iltutmish, and chief minister to Sultan Nasir ud-Din (reigns 1246–1266), whom he kills to gain throne. He suppresses rebellions of Turkish nobles and his own governor in Bengal, subdues Rajput chiefs, and repels a number of Mongol invasions from the northwest. Balban proclaims divine monarchy and creates a strong sultanate, exerting tight control by means of elaborate spy and police networks. 1290: The Mamluk (former slaves) dynasty is overthrown in a coup by the Khaljis, a tribe of Turks settled in northern India in wake of Turkish conquest. Khalji sultans create an Indo-Islamic state and broaden their power base by including non-Turks and Indian Muslims among government officials. 1292: Sultan Jalaluddin Khalji allows Ulgu, grandson of Hulegu, and several thousand Mongol invaders to convert to Islam and settle near Delhi. These “New Muslims” are virtually exterminated in 1311 when Ala udDin, discovering a conspiracy against his life, massacres them. Early 1290s: Marco Polo is believed to land in Tamil Nadu and sail up the Malabar Coast on his return to Italy from China; his published account of India’s geography, customs, and prosperity is a seminal work on India in Europe and does much to stimulate the European search for eastern trade routes. 1296: Soon after returning from his invasion of Deccan loaded with tributary gold, silver, and precious stones, Prince Ala ud-Din Khalji assassinates his uncle the sultan and assumes the throne (reigns 1296–1316). Perhaps the most outstanding of all Delhi sultans, he and his slave general Malik Kafur extend the empire across the whole of northern India with early conquests of Gujarat, Ranthambhor, Chitor, Malwa, and Maharashtra. Strict social and economic controls largely forestall rebellions. 1306: Mongols, at the zenith of their empire,


are decisively defeated by Ala ud-Din after years of nearly continuous invasions. India is nearly alone among Asian states in escaping Mongol conquest and annexation. 1307–1311: In the successful Deccan campaign, Ala ud-Din defeats the Kakatiyas and Hoysalas, extends Delhi’s nominal suzerainty all the way south to Cape Comorin, and takes enormous plunder. Orissa is the only major area that remains independent of Delhi rule. In the absence of a permanent administrative system, however, the Delhi sultan later loses control of much of the territory conquered in the south. 1320: Tughluqs depose the last Khalji sultan; a new dynasty is founded and order restored by Ghiyas ud-Din Tughluq (reigns 1320– 1325). 1325–1351: Reign of the greatest Tughluq sultan, Muhammad bin Tughluq, who gains the throne, historians believe, after murdering his father in a staged “accident.” An outstanding general, he extends the empire to its greatest extent, annexing Peshawar and the Himalayan kingdom of Nagarkot in the north, Bihar to the east, and southern states of Warangal, Ma’bar, and Dvarasamudra. The empire fractures almost immediately as rebellions (often instigated by Tughluq officials) create independent Islamic kingdoms, divisions that endure for two hundred years until the Mughal conquests. He establishes diplomatic relations with numerous other Asian states and diversifies the nobility by appointing Afghans, Persians, and Mongols. 1326–1327: Muhammad bin Tughluq founds a second administrative capital at Devagiri, the centrally located capital of the old Yadava kingdom. The city is rebuilt and a new road network constructed, including a direct route to Delhi. Renamed Daulatabad, the new capital is a failure: Delhi’s ruling elite resists forced resettlement. 1333–1347: Ibn Battuta (1304–1378), the renowned scholar and traveler from Tangier, Morocco, resides in India; he spends eight years at the court of Muhammad bin Tugh-


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luq, who appoints him qazi (Islamic legal officer) and sends him as ambassador to China. Ibn Battuta’s famous account of his 75,000-mile travels includes invaluable information on Muhammad bin Tughluq and on Indian culture and institutions. 1334–1335: A rebel sultanate founded at Ma’bar on Coromandel Coast rules for thirty years. 1336: Brothers in the sultan’s service rebel, found the southern kingdom of Vijayanagar. 1337: A military expedition against Himalayan state of Qarachil ends in disaster: the entire force, numbered at 100,000 horsemen and foot soldiers, is destroyed by disease or local resistance and its equipment looted. The Delhi sultans are never again able to field a significant army, and the cost of this and other military adventures seriously depletes imperial resources. 1338: Bengal becomes independent under imperial official Fakhr ud-Din Mubarak Shah. The Ilyas Shahi (1339–1487) and Husain Shahi (1493–1538) dynasties dominate the period until Akbar’s conquest (1576), creating a strong state and instilling deep roots of Islam. Awadh, suffering from overtaxation and famine, also becomes independent. Imperial minister Shams ud-Din murders Udayanadeva, last Hindu king of Kashmir, and founds independent sultanate in Kashmir (1339–1586) that survives until Akbar’s annexation. 1343: The caliph of Egypt invests Muhammad bin Tughluq with sovereignty of India. 1347: Entire Deccan, including Daulatabad, frees itself from Delhi’s rule with the foundation of the Bahmani kingdom. 1351–1388: Reign of Firuz Shah Tughlug in Delhi and north India. His extensive campaigns restore hegemony in the north, but he fails in repeated attempts in the 1350s to reconquer Bengal and leaves the Deccani sultanates unchallenged. He fatally weakens the army by paying troops with heritable jagirs (land revenues) and land grants, decreasing their dependence on and loyalty to the

crown. A war of succession following his death degenerates into anarchy. 1352: The Black Death, returning back into Asia after ravaging Europe, reaches Moscow, from whence it reaches India. 1396: An independent Islamic state is created in Gujarat, the major locus of maritime trade, and survives until conquest by Akbar (1572). Notable rulers include Ahmad Shah (1411–1443), founder of the capital at Ahmadabad. In the final chaotic years of the Tughluq dynasty, Jaunpur, Malwa, and Khandesh also become important independent sultanates. December 18, 1398: After a destructive cavalry raid through northern India, Timur (in English, Tamerlane, 1336–1405), the Mongol ruler of the huge empire of Samarkand, overruns the forces of Sultan Mahmud Tughluq and enters Delhi in triumph. He sacks the city before returning to his own empire, leaving behind him two great swaths of utter devastation and a large territory destined to suffer for a hundred years the turmoil of Turkish and Afghan clan wars, internal rebellions, and local conflicts. The tree grows again. Fresh flowers bloom. The spring comes with the fragrant summer wind and bees are drunk. The forest of Brinda is filled with new airs. Krishna has come. On the river bank adorned with groves, new lovers are lost in love. Intoxicated by the honey of mango blossoms, kokilas freshly sing. The hearts of young girls are drunken with delight. The forest is charged with a new flavor of love. Poem by Vidyapati Thakura (14th–15th centuries)

1405: The sultan of Bengal dispatches envoys

to the emperor of China, initiating a series of diplomatic exchanges. 1414: Khizr Khan Sayyid, Timur’s governor of Multan, besieges Delhi and assumes the throne after the death of Mahmud Tughluq.

Political History

He rules from 1414 to 1421 and founds the Sayyid dynasty (1414–1451). Weak rulers, the Sayyids never establish sovereignty beyond the Doab and Punjab, wage constant warfare with Jaunpur, and by the end of their reign are reduced to ruling over Delhi and its environs. 1451: After two unsuccessful invasions of Delhi (1441, 1447), Bahlol Lodi replaces the last Sayyid sultan, who resigns the throne; after 240 years the Turkish sultanate gives way to Afghan rule. Bahlol rules to 1489, founding the Lodi dynasty (1451–1526). A resourceful general, he restores the sultanate’s fortunes and territories, subduing Jaunpur, Mewat, and the Doab. An equally forceful ruler, he promotes a new view of the king as first among equals, deriving from Afghan tribal governance, and reorganizes the imperial administration to accommodate the Afghan nobility. 1458–1511: During Mahmud Begarha’s reign, Gujarat reaches height of dominion, wealth, and power, but is forced to fight an aggressive Portuguese fleet intent on controlling European trade routes. The Gujarati navy and Egyptian fleet, commanded by Turkish admiral Malik Ayaz, defeat the Por-


tuguese off Chaul in 1508 but are themselves routed off Diu in 1509. 1459: Rao Jodha, maharaja of Marwar (reigns 1438–1488) founds a capital at Jodhpur, site of a magnificent hill fort. His seventeen sons take advantage of the weak Delhi sultanate to conquer territories contiguous to their father’s. This pattern of clan members controlling small units of a single state is a characteristic of the Rajput states; it sets the stage for future Rajput conflict. 1489–1517: Reign of Sikandar Shah Lodi. A strong ruler, he restores control over nobles and reestablishes control across northern India from Punjab to Bengal. He founds a new capital on the site of modern Agra (1504) as a base for campaigns against the Rajputs. 1513: Babur, the Mongol-Turk ruler of Kabul, takes advantage of unsettled conditions in the Delhi sultanate to begin a series of exploratory raids into Punjab. He captures Kandahar in 1517. Disaffected Afghan nobles angered by the tyrannical rule of Ibrahim, the last Lodi sultan (reigns 1517–1526), invite Babur to invade. April 19, 1526: Ibrahim is defeated and killed by Babur at the first battle of Panipat, ending the Delhi sultanate and beginning Mughal rule in India.

S O U T H I N D I A : V I J AYA N AG A R E M P I R E , 1 3 3 6 – 1 5 6 5 Like other medieval Indian kingdoms, Vijayanagar is a military state. Founded in the context of increased militarization of Hindu states to compete with northern sultanates, Vijayanagar engages vigorously in seemingly endless rivalries and territorial wars with its neighbors, the Bahmanis and their successor sultanates in the Deccan. Its armies number in the tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands; attacks and sieges of forts and the repeated pillage and sacking of both countryside and cities are common. Details of much of this history are obscure or only incompletely known, but Vijayanagar armies conquer an empire that at its greatest extent covers 140,000 square miles, the whole of peninsular India except for Calicut. The empire is one of the greatest states in Indian history. Deccan geopolitics of the period is based on political and economic rather than religious rivalry. The imperial administration of Vijayanagar employs Muslims in its armies, copies the administrative and military reforms of Islamic states, permits the building of mosques and Islamic cemeteries, and contracts opportunistic alliances with neighboring sultanates; in fact, by


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the fifteenth century the Hindu Gajapatis of Orissa are among Vijayanagar’s most implacable enemies. The militarization introduced into the subcontinent by Islamic conquerors is partly responsible for peninsular warfare, but increasing commercialization also plays a role, for South India is a strategic and lucrative link in the far-flung and complex network of Asian and European trade. Vijayanagar’s territorial reach, incorporating both east- and west-coast Deccan ports, provides vast wealth. The innumerable Arab and Persian traders and chroniclers and European visitors who contribute to Vijayanagar’s cosmopolitanism are struck by the opulence of the imperial court and capital. Under Vijayanagar rule, indigenous cultural traditions continue without interruption in south India. This period is notable for a resurgence of temple building, prompted in part by the important role temples play as political and military centers; a distinct Vijayanagar style of temple architecture evolves. The kings of Vijayanagar are also lavish patrons of learning, art, literature, and music. Their territory includes Telugu-, Kannada-, and Tamil-speaking regions. This is the golden age of Telugu literature; translations of Sanskrit religious texts into this and the other Dravidian vernaculars are a catalyst for Hindu revival. c. 1340: The brothers Harihara and Bukka

1347: The neighboring Bahmani sultanate

Sangama found the Sangama (sometimes called Yadava) dynasty (to 1485) and establish an independent Hindu kingdom in central Deccan (to 1565). On his coronation day, Harihara i (reigns c. 1340–1356) founds the royal capital of Vijayanagar (City of Victory), from which the kingdom takes its name. Minister Anantarasa Chikka Udaiya oversees the creation of a well-organized centralized administration that survives for more than two hundred years. The empire develops a system of shared sovereignty under which kings enjoy ritual sovereignty over their southern empire, but actual local political authority is exercised by numerous ruling families (utaiyar). Under the nayankara system, military commanders are appointed nayaka (local governor) and granted income from estates for the purpose of raising troops; they maintain control over local chiefs. 1346: In most important of early territorial conquests, Bukka conquers and annexes neighboring Hoysala kingdom after eight years of war. By the early 1350s the Vijayanagar empire stretches across southern India from coast to coast, comprising the entire peninsula south of the Krishna and Tungabhadra rivers except for independent Calicut. Bukka is made joint ruler and heir.

launches its first war against Vijayanagar; Bahmanis become a major rival for power in south India. Contesting Warangal, Andhra, and particularly the Raichur Doab between the Tungabhadra and Krishna rivers, the two states exist in an antagonistic relationship and are often at war. 1360–1377: During his reign, Bukka i builds his empire by conquest, annexing Tamil Madurai (1360) to the south, Raichur Doab (after war with Bahmanis, 1365), and eastern Reddi territories (1365–1370). His son Kumara Kampana conquers the sultanate of Ma’bar (1370), extending Vijayanagar dominion over the whole of south India. 1377: Bukka i’s son Harihara ii (reigns 1377– 1404) becomes the first Vijayanagar ruler to assume the royal title raya. Soon after his coronation, he repels an invasion from the Bahmani sultanate, subdues a rebellion in the Tamil-speaking southern territory, and exacts tribute from Ceylon. 1380: Vijayanagar captures the important port of Goa and wrests the Konkan from Bahmanis, thereby gaining control of the west Deccan coast all the way north to Chaul (until 1470), source of rich revenues from trade. Fortified outposts are built around the peninsula.

Political History 1398–1406: A Bahmani invasion sparks eight

years of war. Firuz Shah Bahmani again invades (1406) and enslaves sixty thousand Hindus. November 7, 1406: Coronation of Devaraya i (reigns 1406–1424) after two years of civil war. He modernizes the Vijayanagar army, long at a disadvantage against more sophisticated northern weaponry and tactics, by introducing cavalry and employing Turkish archers. 1420: Italian traveler Niccolo de Conti visits Vijayanagar. His detailed written account describes Devaraya I as the most powerful king in India; he is awestruck at the splendor and wealth of the capital, covering dozens of square miles and defended by seven massive concentric fortifications. Ninety thousand soldiers are reported to be garrisoned in the city. 1424–1446: The empire achieves its largest extent during reign of Devaraya ii. His army enlarged with Muslim mercenaries, he conquers eastern territories from the Krishna River to Ceylon and mounts invasions all the way south into Kerala. Imperial control of west coast ports gives the crown monopoly over trade in the vital military resource of Arabian horses. c. 1428: Vijayanagar annexes the east-coast kingdom of Kondavidu, important for its ports. This begins a century-long conflict with the neighboring Gajapati kingdom in Orissa. November 1442: Persian ambassador Abdur Razzaq arrives at Calicut, one of a number of small independent Hindu kingdoms on the Malabar Coast. 1443: A brother of Devaraya ii treacherously murders many of Vijayanagar’s nobles and princes, stabs the king, and proclaims himself raya. Although Devaraya survives the assault and executes its perpetrator, his kingdom is robbed of its ruling class. The Bahmanis take advantage of this weakness to invade with a force of fifty thousand cavalry and sixty thousand foot soldiers. 1463–1465: Gajapati of Orissa invade and un-


der the superb generalship of Prince Hamvira capture a string of major eastern forts, including Udayagiri, Chandragiri, and Kanchi. They retreat after a two-year rout of Vijayanagar forces, leaving the empire severely weakened. 1470: Bahmani wazir Mahmud Gawan launches a Konkan campaign against Vijayanagar; he captures much of the west coast from Goa all the way north to Chaul. Efforts to retrieve Goa fail; the loss of this primary west coast port interrupts the trade in Persian and Arabian horses on which Vijayanagar’s military now depends. Life’s postures, love, hate—lost to the flames; the craving-filled kettle drum finally burst. Lust’s veil, this body, is tattered with age; every errant shuffle is stilled. All that lives and dies—why, they’re one, and the this and that, and haggling, are gone. What I have found, says Kabir, is fullness itself, A finality granted by the mercy of Ram. From a poem by Kabir (15th century)

1470s: Saluva Narasimha, Tamil Brahman

chief of Chandragiri and an extremely able general, conquers extensive territories in south India and Orissa. The newly won territory is nominally under sovereignty of Vijayanagar ruler Virupaksha ii (reigns 1465– 1485); in reality, by 1480 Saluva Narasimha is the preeminent power in the kingdom, effectively operating as an independent prince. 1485: Saluva Narasimha seizes a throne weakened by competing claimants (reigns 1485– 1491). He thus ends the Sangama dynasty and founds the short-lived Saluva dynasty (to 1505). His campaigns rejuvenate the Vijayanagar army after years of losses and regain territory lost to Orissa and Bahmanis (whose own kingdom is approaching dissolution). The empire regains nearly the whole of its former extent in peninsular India under the regency of chief minister Narasa Nayaka,


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who in a remarkable streak defeats the Cheras, Cholas, Pandyas, Gajapati, and Adil Shahis. 1490: The Sultanate of Bijapur is founded. It replaces the Bahmani kingdom as Vijayanagar’s primary rival. The other new Deccan sultanates, Ahmadnagar, Berar, Bidar, and Golconda, join in a tumultuous period of warfare punctuated by short-lived, quickly shifting tactical alliances. 1498: Vasco da Gama, in search of East Indian maritime trade routes, lands with four ships at Calicut (which later lends its name to major Indian export, cotton calico). His is the first European fleet to complete round-trip voyage to India. He gains Portuguese trade concessions from the zamorin, Calicut’s ruler. 1501: In the compact of Bidar, Deccan sultanates agree to unite in war against Vijayanagar. 1505: Saluva dynasty is overthrown by Narasa Nayaka’s son Vira Narasimha (reigns 1505– 1509), who establishes the Tuluva dynasty (to 1542). 1505: Francisco de Almeida is appointed the first viceroy of Portuguese India (governs 1505–1509). Arriving with a fleet of twentyone ships and a force of fifteen hundred men, he fights his way up the west coast, establishing naval supremacy as far north as Diu, Gujarat. Portuguese traders are established at Cochin (1506) and Socotra (1507). August 8, 1509: Coronation of Vira Narasimha’s half-brother Krishnadevaraya (reigns 1509–1529), who rules at the zenith of Vijayanagar’s power and wealth. Soon afterward, he repulses an invasion by the confederated Deccan sultanates (1510). Krishnadevaraya pursues friendly relations with Europeans, granting Portuguese trading rights in exchange for access to trade goods, especially horses vital to his military; the second Portuguese viceroy Afonso de Albuquerque (governs 1509–1515) proposes a military alliance.

1509–1529: Krishnadevaraya curbs traditional

powers of military chiefs by placing imperial forts under control of Brahman commanders and creating the poligars, a new military class completely dependent on the king for preferment. Muslim and Portuguese gunners are hired to defend forts, and forest tribesmen are retained as soldiers. 1512–1523: Krishnadevaraya launches a series of brilliant military campaigns against the sultanates and the Gajapati, himself leading troops in battle. He recovers the eastern provinces of Kondavidu, Warangal, and Rajamundry; secures the Raichur Doab, extending dominion northward to the Krishna River; and annexes Mysore. In a bloody war with Bijapur (1520), Vijayanagar forces sack the capital, plunder the country, and destroy the old Bahmani capital of Gulbarga. 1522: Portuguese traveler Domingo Paes visits Vijayanagar, a city of 100,000, which he describes as “the best provided city in the world” in an extensive written account of the king and his empire. Increased commercial relations bring numerous Portuguese traders and travelers to south India; their writings serve as important historical sources. c. 1530: Beginning of the Nayak (Naik) period of rule. The system of nayaka, military officers who rule as independent local powers, fills the vacuum left by the decay of imperial power, and effectively replaces the Vijayanagar kingship until the eighteenthcentury Mughal annexation. 1543 or 1544: After two unsuccessful attempts to take the throne (1529, 1535), Krishnadevaraya’s son-in-law Rama Raja crowns his own candidate during the war of succession. He is regent for the nominal young king Sadasivaraya (reigns until 1576). Muslims hold important offices in Rama Raja’s twentyyear-long administration, including military posts; the armies of all south Indian states are by now composed of Hindus, Muslims, and European mercenaries.

Political History 1543–1562: Attempting to reverse Vijayana-

gar’s decline, Rama Raja undertakes a series of political intrigues, alliances, and raids on Deccan sultanates. His arrogance, open contempt for neighboring Muslim princes and their ambassadors, and despoliation of their lands, coupled with his decentralization of political authority, instead ensure the destruction of his kingdom. January 23, 1565: A Vijayanagar army said to number nearly a million men battle the combined forces of Bijapur, Ahmadnagar,


Golconda, and Bidar at Talikota. The artillery of the allied force inflicts a crushing defeat: two of Vijayanagar’s Muslim generals defect, Rama Raja himself is killed, and the Vijayanagar empire is destroyed. The huge capital is sacked and razed. Later Vijayanagar kings, nominally ruling until 1672 from capitals at Penukonda and Chandragiri, preside over an empire under perpetual attack by Bijapur and Golconda and disintegrating under the weight of noble factionalism, rebellions, and civil and external wars.

S O U T H I N D I A : I S L A M I C S T AT E S , 1 3 0 0 – 1 6 5 0 Islamic rule in peninsular India begins shortly after 1300, when an incursion by the Delhi sultanate brings a southward migration of Indo-Turks from the north. The Tughluq nobles who administer the provincial government soon revolt, however, and the Bahmani dynasty founds an independent sultanate in the northern Deccan at about the same time that the great Hindu state of Vijayanagar is founded to the south. In a contest more political than religious, these kingdoms fight for control of the Deccan for 150 years. The Bahmanis solicit Muslim immigration from the Middle East, Arabia, and Persia to help administer their kingdom. Jealousies and political rivalries with the longer established Muslim population exacerbate the violence and instability endemic to the Bahmani kingdom. Around 1500, a series of successful rebellions creates five successor states governed by hereditary Muslim dynasties: the large, rich, and powerful kingdoms of Ahmadnagar, Bijapur, and Golconda and the smaller and shorter-lived kingdoms of Berar and Bidar. Like the Bahmanis before them, the five Deccan sultanates exist in a political environment of constantly shifting alliances, rivalries, and wars. Massive armies move over the Deccan fighting for possession of forts, plundering their enemies’ territory and sacking their cities. In a brief alliance, they conquer Vijayanagar in 1565. They are themselves overrun by Mughal invasion a century later. The larger sultanates are renowned for their fabulous wealth, deriving from their diamond and gem deposits and control of interregional and international trade. Their control of ports is challenged, however, as Europeans make their first appearance in south India during this period. Portuguese navigators discover the sea route to the Indies and are followed in the early years of the sixteenth century by traders installed in west coast trading factories and protected by a formidable navy and a colonial governor. The western port of Goa, captured in 1510 to serve as the Portuguese capital, is to remain in Portugal’s hands for 450 years. The eclectic cultures of the Deccan begin percolating during this period as indigenous Marathi, Telugu, and Kannada cultures come into contact with the Arab and Persian influences brought by immigrants and, toward the end of the period, with Europeans. Each sultanate develops its own distinctive culture based on its own regional mix. The major art and architecture of the Deccan during this period are, however, Islamic. Mosques, new to peninsular India, and Islamic-style palaces and tombs are built in great numbers.


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Extant architecture, sculpture, and paintings, Indian chronicles, and European travelers’ accounts all attest to the opulence of medieval Deccan courts. As do their peers in medieval and early modern cultures around the world, ordinary people in the southern sultanates live in extreme poverty, subjected to ruinous taxation and arbitrary and often harsh rule. c. 1310: Khalji general Malik Kafur conquers

Deccan for the Delhi sultanate. Plunder from Madurai (1311) and elsewhere finances northerners’ military campaigns. Indo-Turks rule south India in the wake of conquest. 1323: Ulugh Tughluq (the future Muhammad Shah) conquers Madurai on the Coromandel coast, beginning four hundred years of Muslim rule in parts of south India. He creates Ma’bar, a small and precarious province of the Delhi sultanate surrounded by Hindu kingdoms. After succeeding to the Delhi throne, he establishes (1327) a southern capital at the old Yadava capital of Devagiri, renamed Daulatabad. 1334: Tughluq general Jalal ud-Din Ahsan Shah rebels and founds an independent sultanate at Ma’bar (to c. 1370). It is one of many rebellions against Tughluqs that force northerners to withdraw from south India in the 1330s–1340s. The Ma’bar sultanate is noted for dynastic violence, slaughter of Hindus, and wars over trading stations with the neighboring kingdoms of Hoysala, Pandya, and Vijayanagar. 1335–1342: Widespread famines in south India. 1336: Founding of Vijayanagar empire. 1347: The governor of Gulbarga, Zafar Khan Hasan Gangu, founds the Bahmani sultanate (to 1526) after a two-year rebellion of Muslim nobles against Muhammad Shah in central Deccan. He reigns (1347–1358) as Ala ud-Din Bahman Shah. The Bahmani dynasty is particularly violent; the majority of its fourteen sultans die violently, and constant wars, massacres, and destruction characterize the period. 1347–1424: Gulbarga period of the Bahmani dynasty. Ala ud-Din’s capital at centrally located Gulbarga becomes a great city. 1350: Ala ud-Din’s first war against the neigh-

boring kingdom of Warangal. His empire eventually reaches from Goa to western Warangal. He replicates the Tughluqs’ administrative structure, with four provincial governors. Noble military officers administer the territories and maintain armed forces; following the Delhi sultanate’s practice, local Hindu officials collect land taxes. 1358–1375: Reign of Muhammad i, son of Ala ud-Din Bahman Shah. He inaugurates a century and a half of nearly constant warfare with neighboring Vijayanagar for control of the Deccan, specifically of the wellfortified Raichur Doab between the Tungabhadra and Krishna rivers. Late 14th–early 15th centuries: The Bahmani sultans encourage large-scale immigration of Arabs, Turks, and southern Persians to Deccan. Mostly Persian-speaking Shias, the immigrants become successful in trade and the royal army and administration, and gradually receive political preferment. Original noble settlers from Delhi sultanate fairly established in Deccan (dakhnis, or Deccanis), mostly Sunnis intermarried with indigenous peoples, grow resentful at political inroads of immigrants (afaqi or pardesis). The cultural and political rift between these groups is increasingly deep and bitter. 1365: Warangal cedes Golconda to the Bahmani kingdom. Bahmanis are also engaged against Reddi and Gajapati kingdoms to their east. Their armed force, largely cavalry, deploys artillery in static contests over fortified strongholds. 1378–1380: Vijayanagar takes advantage of a few years of extreme violence over Bahmani royal succession to capture Goa and other lucrative west coast ports. 1390s: Widespread famines in south India. Muhammad ii Shah Bahmani (reigns 1378– 1397) organizes famine relief.

Political History 1397–1422: Reign of Firuz Shah Bahmani.

He expands the nobility by ennobling Hindus and granting them high office, and he himself takes wives of many nationalities. Military campaigns against Vijayanagar (1398, 1406, 1417) end in stalemate. He invades and plunders Gondwana (1412) and Warangal (1417), but is disastrously defeated at Pangal (1420) by a Vijayanagar-led coalition. 1422–1436: Reign of Firuz Shah’s brother Ahmad Shah is marked by relentless military campaigns and expansionism. He visits wars, slaughter, and destruction on Vijayanagar and finally annexes Warangal (1425). He also fights against Malwa and Gujarat, successor states to the Tughluqs that are perennially contested because of their strategic location between north and south India. 1423: Famine in Deccan. 1424–1526: Bidar period of the Bahmani dynasty, so called from Ahmad Shah’s transfer of the capital to Bidar. 1430–1431: Deccani officers of the Bahmani army abandon their own general, Khalaf Hasani, causing Ahmad Shah’s defeat in the second Gujarati campaign. Their defection creates rivalry in aristocracy between Deccanis (Sunni Muslims long established in the Deccan) and pardesis (foreigners), recent immigrants from the Middle East, Arabia, and Persia who are Shias. 1436: His army now manned entirely by pardesis, Bahmani Shah Ala ud-Din Ahmad (reigns 1436–1458) repels northern invasion by Khandesh, a client state of Gujarat. 1446: Deccanis, now politically ascendant, treacherously persuade the sultan that pardesis (foreigners) are responsible for the failure of the Konkan invasion and with royal acquiescence massacre numerous pardesis at Chakan. After pardesi survivors expose the Deccanis’ perfidy, the emperor punishes the Deccanis and restores pardesis to political favor. The Deccani-pardesi split becomes open hostility. 1455: Mahmud Gawan, a Persian pardesi in royal service, negotiates end of rebellion in


Warangal, beginning a rapid political rise; he is to become one of the greatest statesmen of medieval India. 1463: Mahmud Gawan, now governor of Bijapur, is appointed wazir (chief minister, to 1481) of nine-year-old sultan Muhammad iii Bahmani (reigns 1463–1482). Gawan proves an extremely capable ruler at the height of Bahmani power. State appointments are divided between Deccanis and pardesis. Government is centralized, reducing the considerable power of provincial governors; the four tarafs (provinces) are divided into eight, with administrative subdivision into sarkars and parganas. c. 1470: Russian traveler Athanasius Nikitin visits Bidar; his written account describes a kingdom of tremendous luxury and wealth. 1470s: The Bahmani kingdom achieves its greatest geographical extent, stretching from the Arabian Sea to the Coromandel Coast. Military campaigns include the reconquest of much of Konkan, yielding control of the west coast trade (1470) and Goa (1475); the conquest of Rajamundry (1472) and devastation of Orissa (1478); the invasion of Karnataka (1479); and the sack of Kanchi (1481). 1472: Famine in Deccan. April 5, 1481: Using a forged document, a Deccani party led by Nizam ul-Mulk persuades Muhammad iii Bahmani to execute Mahmud Gawan for treason. During the next months, pardesis desert the capital in protest; the sultan dies repentant; the nizam, now styled Malik Naib, becomes regent for Muhammad iii’s son Mahmud (reigns 1482– 1518) and is himself murdered in 1486. The weakened monarchy is unable to control noble factionalism and provincial rebellions; the Bahmani empire is dismembered, although the nominal sultan is enthroned until 1538. 1487–1490: Exploratory voyages by Pedro de Covilham between the Persian Gulf, India, and East Africa lead him to report to the Portuguese king that India can be reached by sea from Europe by sailing around Africa.


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June 1490: Malik Ahmad Nizam ul-Mulk,

1494: The Treaty of Tordesillas, demarcating

son of Malik Naib, secedes from the Bahmani kingdom and founds the independent state of Ahmadnagar (to 1636) in the Marathi-speaking region of northwest Deccan. He rules as Ahmad Nizam Shah (to 1509), founding the Nizam Shahi dynasty (to 1595). 1490: Fatullah Imad ul-Mulk (d. 1504) secedes from the Bahmani kingdom, founds the Imad Shahi dynasty in the independent kingdom of Berar. This small central Deccan kingdom lies east of Ahmadnagar, which gradually annexes its territory and finally absorbs Berar outright (1574). 1490: Yusuf Adil Khan, Bahmani governor of Bijapur, secedes from the Bahmani kingdom to establish the Adil Shahi dynasty (to 1686) in the new kingdom of Bijapur in southwest Deccan. Bijapur, the southernmost of the new south Indian Islamic states, is flanked by Ahmadnagar and Vijayanagar, its two major rivals for south Indian domination. 1492: Qasim Barid, a powerful Turkish noble and superintendent of police, takes over the central government of the much-reduced Bahmani kingdom at Bidar. Although a nominal Bahmani sultan rules for thirty more years, 1492 is sometimes regarded as the founding date of the Baridi Shahi dynasty in the fifth southern sultanate of Bidar (to 1619).

Spanish and Portuguese spheres of influence, bars Spanish colonial expansion in the subcontinent, ensuring Portuguese domination at precisely the time European traders are establishing their first permanent settlements in southern India. 1501: Mahmud Shah Bahmani unites his amirs and wazirs in an agreement to wage annual jihad against Vijayanagar. The expeditions are financially ruinous. 1510: The second Portuguese viceroy, Alfonso de Albuquerque (governs 1509–1515), captures Goa from the sultan of Bijapur. Portuguese naval power is decisive in the defeat of the Ahmadnagar-Bijapur coalition. Portugal subsequently annexes further territory to the north and south of Goa, referred to as the “Old Conquests” (1543), and begins a century-long domination of the European maritime spice trade with the East Indies. Goa becomes the capital of the far-flung Portuguese empire. Portugal will hold Goa until 1962. 1512: Turkish officer Quli Qutb ul-Mulk declares an independent sultanate in the provincial capital of Golconda, and founds the Qutb Shahi dynasty (to 1687). Golconda is located in the Telugu-speaking region of east Deccan. Golconda, Bijapur, and Ahmadnagar, major successor states to the Bahmani kingdom, strike shifting tactical alliances in military campaigns against each other and Vijayanagar during next hundred years. 1527: The last Bahmani sultan, Kalimullah, flees from Bidar to Ahmadnagar. Located in the central Deccan, Bidar proves vulnerable to territorial raids by its more powerful neighbors. January 23, 1565: A coalition of Deccan sultanates led by Ali Adil Shah i of Bijapur routs Rama Raja’s forces at Talikota, ending the Vijayanagar empire. The victors’ alliance is short-lived, and the sultanates are again at war within two years. Bijapur gradually extends its dominion into Vijayanagar over the next thirty years.

Like meat-eating owls and vultures and cranes; such are the animal bodies we bear. Like lynxes we are, like a mongoose or fox— They all live in homes just like ours; All have their houses, their wives and sons— what makes us better than they? To fill their bodies they kill living beings And feed on pleasures for which no one should yearn. Sur says, unless we sing to the Lord, We’re camels and asses—that’s what we are. From the Sursagar, poems by Surdas (15th–16th century)

Political History 1571: Bijapur and Ahmadnagar sign treaties

with Portugal after the sieges of Portuguese Goa and Chaul fail. Portuguese domination of sea lanes and Mughal hegemony in the north cut the Deccan off; sultans increasingly turn to local Hindus rather than Middle Eastern Muslim immigrants for administrative personnel. 1574: Ahmadnagar annexes Berar, ending the ninety-year Imad Shahi dynasty. 1590: Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah (reigns 1580–1612) founds the new capital of Golconda at Hyderabad alongside an existing fortress. Golconda, straddling major trade and military routes through the central Deccan, becomes fabulous for its wealth. 1591: Mughal emperor Akbar supports a successful coup in Ahmadnagar that installs Burhan Nizam Shah ii. Wars with Bijapur, another failed attack on Portuguese Chaul (1592), and noble factionalism weaken Burhan’s rule; civil war after his death (1595) brings the very successful century-long Ni-


zam Shahi dynasty to an end and smoothes the path of Akbar’s Deccan campaigns. 1593, 1596: Dowager queen Chand Bibi personally leads Ahmadnagar’s defense against Mughal invasions, but is finally forced to cede Berar to Mughals. 1619: Bijapur annexes the sultanate of Bidar. 1626: Death of Malik Ambar, chief minister of Ahmadnagar and one of the greatest statesmen of medieval India. 1633: Mughal emperor Shah Jahan captures Daulatabad and finally annexes Ahmadnagar. The Mughal viceroy of the Deccan is installed at Aurangabad. Bijapur and Golconda, the only two remaining Deccan sultanates, become Mughal tributaries. 1646: Revolt of Shivaji against Adil Shahis marks the beginning of Maratha power in Deccan. 1656: Mughals annex Bidar, since 1619 a province of Bijapur. 1686–1687: Bijapur and Golconda, finally unable to withstand Mughal armies, are annexed by Akbar.

MUGHAL EMPIRE: 1526–1760 The Mughal dynasty (from the Persian word for Mongol, Mughal) originates in invasion and is driven by the idea of conquest and empire; warfare and territorial expansion are major themes of the reign. At the same time, the Mughals prove to be outstanding rulers. They succeed in imposing a strong and enduring central administration on a fragmented region previously under the sway of competing Hindu, Turkish, and Afghan chieftains and Muslim sultans. During this period the subcontinent achieves a degree of political cohesion not seen since the Gupta empire: at its height the Mughal dynasty extends this control over the whole of northern India and nearly all of the Deccan. This is not to suggest that the empire is a tranquil one. Groups such as the Rajputs, Sikhs, and Jats (an agricultural caste), as well as members of the ruling families, are often in rebellion against the Mughals, while neighboring Afghans and Persians threaten from the northwest. After the death of the emperor Aurangzeb, the Marathas, originally in the Mughal service, create a powerful state. About this time, too, the governors of many of the provinces of the empire become virtually independent. The empire fractures without the gifted personal rule of the Great Mughals; the dynasty nominally survives until 1858, but its power ends by 1760. Themselves Muslims, the Mughals create an elite ruling class integrated and fully reflective of the rich diversity of India’s ethnic and religious groups. They rule one of the richest nations on earth, and, as their surviving art and artifacts attest, the life of the Mughal ruling class is one of ostentatious luxury. The mass of the population, however, are engaged in rural subsistence


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agriculture and endure lives of poverty comparable to the standard of their European counterparts. Many of the most cherished images of India come from the artists who flourish under Mughal patronage. Architectural masterpieces like the Taj Mahal and classical Indian miniature paintings reveal at a glance a central fact of life in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century northern India: the dominant culture is Persian, with traces of the Mughals’ Turkish and Mongol origins. The Great Mughals preside over a period of great economic expansion fueled by trade. This is the period in which India meets Europe. Eager for India’s cotton, sugar, indigo, and spices, the Portuguese come first, and Dutch, English, and French trading companies establish extensive operations in the subcontinent. These commercial and cultural exchanges are to have profound effects in the centuries to come. April 21, 1526: The first Battle of Panipat, near

Delhi. His men outnumbered four to one, Babur (1483–1530), the Mongol-Turk ruler of Kabul, brilliantly deploys cavalry and Turkish artillery to defeat Ibrahim, last Lodi sultan of Delhi. Ibrahim and fifteen thousand of his men are killed. The conqueror of Kandahar, Punjab, and Lahore, Babur enters Delhi and Agra as emperor of Hindustan; he establishes Mughal dynasty (to 1858) by conquest and appeals to loyalty of local begs, or chiefs. One of the great defects of Hindustan being its lack of running waters, it kept coming to my mind that waters should be made to flow by means of wheels erected wherever I might settle down, also that grounds should be laid out in an orderly and symmetrical way. With this object in view, we crossed the Jun-water to look at garden-grounds a few days after entering Agra. . . . The beginning was made with the large well from which water comes for the Hotbath, and also with the piece of ground where the tamarind-trees and the octagonal tank are now. . . . There in that charmless and disorderly Hind, plots of garden were seen laid out with order and symmetry, with suitable borders and parterres in every corner, and in every border rose and narcissus in perfect arrangement. Memoirs of Babur (1483–1530), emperor of Hindustan (1526)

1527: Amid widespread fighting against the

Portuguese, the Gujarati fleet is defeated by

the Portuguese at Chaul and captured in near entirety off Bandra in 1528. The Portuguese are aggressive throughout the century, besieging coastal forts, burning coastal towns, and demanding tribute; they plunder Sind (1556). They monopolize Indian exports to Europe as well as East Indian trade, imposing marine pass rules (1559), confiscating ships and killing crews of noncomplying vessels in government-sponsored piracy. March 16, 1527: Babur secures the throne by defeating Rana Sanga and 100,000 Rajput troops at Khanua, eliminating primary rivals in northern India. He dies in 1530 after eastern campaigns and a last great victory at the Gogra River, near Patna, in 1529, securing Bengal and Bihar. Late 1520s–1530s: Portuguese establish numerous settlements along the west coast, with major settlements at Cochin, Diu, Bassein, and their headquarters, Goa. Their imperial strategy rejects land empire in favor of fortified factories (trading posts) and absolute control of shipping lanes by a formidable navy. 1534–1540: Succeeding his father, Humayun (reigns 1530–1540) is beset by ambitious brothers, fractious nobility, and difficulty of ruling northern India from Kabul. Campaigns across northern India fail against the Portuguese, Malwa, Bahadur Shah of Gujarat, and the rebellious Farid Khan of Bengal and Bihar. After decisive defeats at Chausa and Bilgram (1539–1540), Humayun

Political History

flees to Persia, leaving Farid Khan in power. He adopts the name Sher Shah Sur. 1540–1545: In a short reign remarkable for its accomplishments, Sher Shah Sur reconquers much of Hindustan and Punjab, centralizes authority, thoroughly reforms the revenue system, and establishes silver currency: his administration lays the groundwork for a centralized northern Indian bureaucracy that Akbar is later to develop more fully. He dies besieging the Rajput stronghold of Kalinjar (1545), and rival chieftains struggle for control of his territory. 1550–1554: Giovanni Ramusio publishes the first major compendium of European travels in India. Dozens of travelers’ accounts are printed in Europe during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. June 23, 1555: Humayun enters Delhi in triumph to reclaim his throne after recovering Kandahar, Kabul, and Lahore with extensive military support from Persian Shah Ismail. He dies in a fall soon after his restoration. February 1556: Humayun’s young son Akbar (reigns 1556–1605) accedes at age fourteen to a crown vulnerable to hostile Afghan chiefs and the disloyalty of his own officials and relatives. Suri general Hemu occupies the Delhi throne; only Punjab province is secure. Bairam Khan, Akbar’s able regent (1556–1560), defeats Hemu’s 100,000-strong force at second battle of Panipat on November 5, reestablishing Mughal rule. Further campaigns in the early years of reign secure the Mughal empire over the northern provinces of Malwa (1561–1562) and Rajputana (1562–1567). 1558: Akbar reestablishes Agra as his capital. 1562: Akbar’s marriage to an Ambur princess is the first of many matrimonial alliances with the great houses of the Mughals’ historical enemy, the Rajputs. His wife’s brother, Man Singh (1550–1614), is appointed to highest rank of civil service and becomes Akbar’s chief general; such appointments integrate the imperial service and secure the loyalty of Hindu chiefs.


Akbar ends discrimination against Hindus by repealing pilgrimage taxes and jizya, the poll tax on non-Muslims. The promotion of religious toleration throughout his reign breaks with practice of some of his Muslim forebears. 1566: The king of Cannanor surrenders to the Portuguese, ending long, bloody Malabar war. 1568–1585: Akbar reconquers northern India: strategic Rajput hill forts of Chitor and Ranthambhor (1568–1569) and provinces of Rajasthan (1570), Gujarat (1572), lower Sind (1574), Bengal and Bihar (1574–1576), and Khandesh (1577). Most Rajput states become Mughal tributaries. Annexed provinces are always subject to revolts and coups, however; some areas remain in nearly continuous rebellion against the Mughals. 1571: Akbar founds a ceremonial capital at Fatehpur Sikri, west of Agra. 1573: In an episode often cited to demonstrate his military genius, Akbar leads three thousand horsemen to Ahmadabad in Gujarat, six hundred miles distant from Fatehpur Sikri, quells a rebellion, and returns to his capital in a brilliant forty-five-day operation. 1573: Akbar establishes the mansabdar system, tying the large bureaucracy and army into a single system. Nobles and other state officials are assigned military ranks determining their own pay (jagirs [assignments of land revenue] or cash) and status and the required number of troops they are responsible for supplying to the imperial army. Akbar uses imperial service as a means of political reconciliation by assigning mansabdars to Persians, Rajputs, others in annexed territories and creating a loyal, integrated civil service. 1578–1617: Reign of Raja Wadiyar at Mysore. 1581: First Turkey and Levant Company formed in London for overland trade to India. Ralph Fitch, John Eldred, John Newberie, and others on its first mercantile ex1563–1564:


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pedition reach Akbar’s court in September 1585. 1584: Akbar adopts the new Ilahi year, a solar calendar counted in regnal years and backdated to his accession. 1585–1595: Akbar reconquers Humayun’s northwestern possessions: Kabul (1585), Kashmir (1586), upper Sind (1591), Orissa (1592), Baluchistan, and Kandahar (1595). The empire is consolidated over a large area of subcontinent bounded by the Godavari River, Kabul, and Kandahar. Protection of the northwest border area from neighboring Persians and Uzbeks occupies Akbar for fifteen years. 1587: Sir Francis Drake’s capture of a laden Portuguese East Indiaman yields more than £100,000 worth of Indian treasure and intelligence about the rich potential of India trade. In 1591 John Lancaster leaves Plymouth on the first English voyage to the East Indies; he lands at Cape Comorin. Royalty is a light emanating from God, and a ray from the sun, the illuminator of the universe, the argument of the book of perfection, the receptacle of all virtues. Modern language calls this light the divine light, and the tongue of antiquity called it the sublime halo. It is communicated by God to kings without the intermediate assistance of anyone, and men, in the presence of it, bend the forehead of praise toward the ground of submission. A’in-i-Akbari (Institutes of Akbar), political tract by Abul Fazl Allami (c. 1590)

1590: Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, ruler of

rich princedom of Golconda, founds a capital near present-day Hyderabad. Strategically sited on the trade and military routes of southern India, Golconda becomes a city of fabulous wealth. 1594–1598: Widespread famine and plague, the sixth famine in half a century. Lahore and Kashmir are severely afflicted; Akbar contributes to relief efforts.

1595–1596: Cornelis de Houtman leads the

first Dutch mercantile expedition to India. Dutchman Jan Huygen van Linschoten’s account of Indian navigation and commerce (published in Holland in 1596, in England in 1598) stimulates European interest in Indian trade. 1599–1602: Akbar invades Bijapur (1600), annexes Khandesh (1601), and sacks Ahmadnagar and Burhanabad; “King of the Deccan” is added to royal titles in 1602. Prince Salim (later Shah Jahangir) takes the opportunity of Akbar’s absence from north India to revolt; he is pardoned. 1600: The estimated population of India is 140–150 million; some 85 percent are rural dwellers. December 31, 1600: The East India Company (EIC) is incorporated in England with a fifteen-year monopoly of eastern trade. It comprises a group of merchants organized voyage by voyage, reliant on commercial competitiveness for success, and trading commodities in bulk. The first EIC voyages are to the East Indies. March 20, 1602: The Dutch United East India Company (VOC) is chartered with a twentyone-year monopoly. A government-run organization of smaller companies, its traders are backed by the Dutch army. India is targeted to supply textiles to exchange for the East Indian spices shipped by the Dutch to Europe. Sailing immediately to India, the Dutch blockade the Portuguese at Goa (1603). 1603: London merchant John Mildenhall reaches India overland; a self-appointed ambassador, he finally obtains trade privileges in Gujarat in imperial firman (1608). 1606: Soon after his accession, Akbar’s son Jahangir (reigns 1605–1627) puts down a rebellion by his eldest son Khusrau in Lahore and executes Khusrau’s supporter Sikh Guru Arjun. The Sikh community is permanently embittered. Arjun’s son Hargobind (1595– 1644) becomes sixth guru in 1606; he arms the Sikhs, fortifies their capital, and builds

Political History

the Akal Takht (Immortal Throne) to symbolize their political presence. 1609: First Dutch trading post at Pulicat. Rapid multiplication of such trading posts in the 1610s–1620s contributes to VOC supremacy over EIC and other European rivals whose East India companies (e.g., French 1604, Danish 1612) are either short-lived or geographically restricted. Major Dutch trade centers include Surat, Teganapatam, Bengal, and Agra. April 1609: William Hawkins, captain of the first EIC voyage to India, arrives at Agra carrying a letter from England’s King James i. He stays at Agra for two years, but Surat merchants and Portuguese persuade Jahangir to deny England trade privileges. Competing trading powers court the emperor and provincial governors during this period trying to gain commercial advantage over rivals. 1610s: In a modest northern territorial expansion, Jahangir ends a long conflict with Mewar (1614), annexes the last Afghan territories (eastern Bengal after a five-year revolution in 1612, Orissa in 1617) and western Kutch (1618). Defeated Afghans are integrated into the Mughal nobility. 1611: Jahangir marries Nur Jahan. Promoting interests of her Persian family, she and Jahangir’s second son, Prince Khurram, dominate politics for more than ten years. Jahangir, addicted to wine and opium, is politically ineffectual. 1612: The first EIC factory is founded at Surat, which becomes the most important English trading post. English posts are founded during the next twenty years at coastal and inland cities including Agra, Ahmadabad, Cambay, Broach, Nizampatam, Balasore, and Hariharpur. 1615–1618: English royal ambassador Sir Thomas Roe presses renewed negotiations at the Mughal court for a permanent commercial and friendship treaty. Prince Khurram grants trade privileges (1618) in exchange for naval support. 1616: Plague in northern India.


1620: First Danish settlement at Tranquebar. 1621: Mughals annex much southern terri-

tory after defeating confederacy of Ahmadnagar, Bijapur, and Golconda. Malik Ambar, Abyssinian slave general and chief minister and virtual ruler of Ahmadnagar, remains an irritant to Mughals, against whom he wages a long guerrilla war (1610– 1629). March 1621: Fire destroys Patna. 1622: Persian attack and capture of long-contested Kandahar (until 1637) tarnishes Mughal prestige and is a deep personal betrayal of emperor by Shah Abbas I, with whom Jahangir has exchanged numerous cordial embassies. 1623: Unsuccessful rebellion by Prince Khurram (later Shah Jahan) after breach with Nur Jahan’s faction. He is pardoned. 1623: Dutch massacre of English factors at Amboyna ends British activity in Java; India becomes the focus of EIC trade. 1624: The EIC is granted power to prosecute its employees in India under English law. March–September 1626: The emperor and Nur Jahan are seized and imprisoned for six months by her rival, Mughal general Mahabat Khan. 1628–1657: Shah Jahan’s reign marks the golden period of the Mughal empire. His reign is marked by successful military campaigns in Deccan, rebellions in southern and northwestern provinces, and further territorial expansion. A quixotic campaign to recover ancestral lands in Balkh, however, fails. 1629–1636: Prince Aurangzeb’s superb generalship is decisive in Mughal conquest of Deccan, a prize first sought by Akbar. Annexation of Ahmadnagar after the death of its great statesman Malik Ambar ends Nizam Shahi dynasty (1633); tributary treaty with Bijapur and Golconda (1636) grants Mughals supremacy over this vast region. As governor of Deccan (reigns 1637–1644, 1654– 1658), Aurangzeb presides over years of unrest.


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1630–1632: Widespread famine as drought is

followed by floods; Gujarat and Deccan are devastated. Shah Jahan contributes to relief efforts. 1630s: EIC negotiations with Golconda and Portugal yield trade privileges on the Coromandel and Malabar coasts. Trade in Bengal is allowed by imperial firman to the EIC (1634). 1630s–1640s: Bhonsles, the most important Maratha clan, consolidate jagirs (land assigned to yield revenue) to expand Bijapur to south and southwest, laying the groundwork for future domination of Deccan. June–September 1632: At war over Portuguese piracy, seizure of territory, and forced conversions in Bengal, Shah Jahan destroys the Portuguese settlement at Hugli, killing or imprisoning thousands. Fourteen thousand Indian prisoners held by the Portuguese are released. 1640: Francis Day completes the construction of Fort St. George, Madras, under a grant from the local raja. 1644: Bijapur conquers Mysore. 1646: Maratha prince Shivaji Bhonsle (1630– 1680) begins operations against Bijapur. He carves out a principality by means of raids, looting, and seizure of remote hill forts; plunder and tribute finance his fiefdom. By the 1650s, he controls the Pune region, and during the following twenty years he forges a powerful Hindu kingdom from the loose Maratha federation in western and central India. 1647: Famine in Madras. 1648: Shah Jahan moves the capital from Agra to his new city of Shahjahanabad (Delhi). February 25, 1649: Persians finally capture Kandahar and repulse all further Mughal campaigns for this strategically located province. 1651: Establishment of an EIC factory at Hugli opens the Bengali saltpeter, silk, and sugar market to the English. European trad-

ing posts multiply in Bengal and Bihar and Orissa during the following decades. 1652: Venetian Niccolao Manucci (1638– 1717) begins fifty years of travels through north and west India; he becomes attached to Prince Dara Shikoh’s court. His published memoirs are an important source for Mughal India. 1653: Madras becomes the EIC presidency (administrative division), its capital Fort St. George. 1656–1657: Prince Aurangzeb reconquers Golconda and Bijapur to gain control of Coromandel Coast with its textiles and indigo trade. May 1657: Maratha chief Shivaji begins a long campaign against the Mughals; he plunders Junnar, loots Ahmadnagar. He leads continual raids in Deccan, extending the Marathas’ reach to the Arabian Sea coast with skillful deployment of exceptionally well trained army and (after 1659) a navy of more than four hundred vessels. An organizational genius and canny strategist, he makes—and breaks—numerous short-lived tactical alliances and treaties to achieve his ends. July 30, 1658: Aurangzeb (reigns 1658–1707), last of the Great Mughals, assumes the throne after a two-year war of succession and imprisons his father, Shah Jahan (who dies after eight years of detention in Agra fort). In early campaigns he wins Bijapur (1660– 1661, 1665–1666), and Mughal general Mir Jumla (c.1591–1663) takes Bihar and Assam (1661–1663). Under the leadership of this experienced general and provincial governor, the Mughal empire reaches its greatest extent to incorporate the whole subcontinent except Kerala. 1659: After a twelve-year war, Shivaji finally defeats Adil Shahi of Bijapur and gains control over southern Konkan. Further territorial gains in northern Konkan and large area of Karnataka enable him to create a state from old Deccan kingdoms; he continues military expeditions throughout the peninsula.

Political History

Peasant rebellions against Mughals by Mathura Jats, northwest frontier Pashtuns, Punjabi Sikhs. These groups are angered by Aurangzeb’s restrictive policies toward non-Muslims, for example, his doubling of internal customs duties for Hindus to 5 percent of the value of goods (1665). June 23, 1661: Portugal cedes Bombay to England in dowry settlement of Catherine of Braganza, bride of Charles ii. Bombay is transferred to EIC (1668) and developed into the premier trading station on the west coast under the presidency of Gerald Aungier (governs 1669–1677). 1662–1663: The long Dutch-Portuguese conflict ends with the Portuguese surrender of Cochin and other ports. The Dutch become the dominant trading power in Kerala and establish Cochin as their primary East Indian port (until 1795). 1664: Shivaji plunders Surat, the greatest port in India. He is crowned raja (later maharaja, c. 1674–1680). Shivaji is Aurangzeb’s nemesis. Mughal attempts to conquer or settle with him fail, although in one brief rapprochement after a defeat by Jai Singh of Ambur, Shivaji joins Mughal imperial service (1666). Shivaji again sacks Surat with fifteen thousand men (1670). 1665: After a string of major naval victories over pirates, Mughals capture Sandwip and Chittagong, havens of Feringhis, descendants of Portuguese pirates; thousands of peasants held prisoner there are freed. This victory eliminates the major threat to Bengal shipping, but pirates from other nations, especially Portugal and England, continue to harass traders. 1669: Aurangzeb, a pious, orthodox Sunni Muslim, begins persecution of Hindus at Thatta, Multan, Varanasi; he orders the destruction of Hindu temples, many of which are replaced with mosques. 1672: Chikkadevaraja Wadiyar accedes to Mysore throne (reigns 1672–1704). In a high point of the long Wadiyar dynasty, he establishes postal and police services. He accepts 1660s–1670s:


Mughal protection (late 1690s), but Hyderabad and local Marathas continue to vie for domination and revenues of this prosperous state. 1672–1675: Afghan revolt quelled by Mughals. 1676: Publication in France of Jean Baptiste Tavernier’s Six Voyages, an account of his five extensive journeys through India (1630s–1660s) that becomes an important historical source. May 1677: EIC authorizes the president of Surat to use force against Indian rulers. A six hundred-man British militia and a troop of horse are formed at Bombay. 1678: Mughals betray Rajput alliance and annex Marwar; the ensuing thirty-year rebellion ends with the restoration of Rajput independence. 1679: Aurangzeb reimposes jizya and other legal and economic disabilities on non-Muslims, inaugurating the enforcement of strict Islamic orthodoxy. October 13, 1679: Twenty thousand are drowned in a storm at Masulipatam. 1681: Aurangzeb marches to Deccan, where he devotes his final twenty-six years to campaigns against Marathas. He conquers the sultanates of Bijapur and Golconda (1686– 1687) and appoints imperial administrators there. August 1683: In response to English traders’ growing complaints of exactions, extortion, and other disabilities by Mughal officials and local traders in Bengal, the EIC is granted admiralty jurisdiction in India. Late 1680s: Open conflict between local rulers and English traders. In a series of raids and attacks in Bengal, the English plunder Hugli (November 1686), sack Balasore, and attack Chittagong. Temporarily driven from Bengal, they remove to Kalikata, where they found a secure trading site at Calcutta (1690). On the west coast, the English seize Indian cargo ships, and Indian rulers imprison English officials and merchants. EIC moves its headquarters from Surat to Bom-


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bay, outside Mughal jurisdiction (May 1687). 1688: Aurangzeb captures Maratha leader, Shivaji’s son Sambhaji. Sambhaji is executed and the Maratha kingdom dismantled. Marathas scatter over south India but continue to plague Mughals in a guerrilla war. c. 1690: The tenth Sikh guru, Gobind Singh (fl. 1675–1708), founds khalsa, a militant Sikh brotherhood, an event still celebrated annually on the first of Vaisakh (April–May) in Punjab. New militarism is a direct response to Aurangzeb’s orthodox zealotry. Dedicating themselves to establishing their independence of Mughal rule, Sikhs begin their transformation from a primarily religious group into a militant group in armed conflict with both Aurangzeb and Afghans. April 1691: A firman from Aurangzeb grants English free trade in Bengal. 1698: Mughals take Jinji fort after the nineyear siege of Maratha leader Rajaram (reigns 1689–1700). In late Deccan campaigns led by Aurangzeb and his generals Asad Khan and Zulfiqar Khan, Mughals also take Tanjore (1694), Maratha capital Satara (1700), Tamil Nadu, and Raigarh fort (1704). Nawab of Arcot becomes Mughal governor of Deccan. Undaunted, Marathas turn northward, invade Gujarat and Khandesh, ravage Malwa (1705). 1698: English sea captain William Kidd, sent from London to command an expedition against Indian Ocean pirates, himself begins attacking merchant ships and taking prizes; he organizes pirates in a coastal blockade. Charged and convicted of piracy, he is hanged in England (1701). 1700: Calcutta becomes EIC presidency during the construction of Fort William there. By the early eighteenth century, then, EIC presidencies of Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay are established as the principal English trading centers; they are later to become the three great provinces of British India. 1701: An imperial firman awards revenue of

twenty-four parganas near Calcutta to the English. 1702–1704: Famine kills an estimated 2 million people in Deccan. July 3, 1703: England, Holland, and Portugal sign a treaty guaranteeing mutual safety of their trading posts in India. 1707: Aurangzeb dies in retreat from Marathas at Aurangabad, leaving weakened empire drained by decades of warfare and still harried by continual rebellions of Sikhs, Rajputs, Afghans, Jats. The mansabdar system begins to break down: there are insufficient jagirs (land grants) to pay the large numbers of imperial servants needed for Aurangzeb’s Deccan wars. Mughal army retreats from Deccan. September 1708: Merger finalized between New East India Company (chartered 1698) and EIC, with combined capitalization of £2 million. The English company wins its battle to control Bengal trade by receiving imperial grants (1716) of duty-free privileges in Bengal and right to purchase thirty-eight villages around Calcutta. EIC is now the strongest trading power in India. 1716: Mughals execute Sikh leader Banda Singh Bahadur (reigns 1708–1716), ending an eight-year-long rebellion in Punjab supported by many peasants and Himalayan Rajput chiefs. Sikhs continue their raids from base at Amritsar, however, and over next two decades create a loose confederacy of dozens of Sikh chiefdoms. 1718: Famine in Gujarat. 1719: Assuming the throne after several years of anarchy, Muhammad Shah (reigns 1719– 1748) rules over dissolving Mughal empire as little more than a puppet of noble factions. His predecessors’ imperial treasury is depleted, and control over the bureaucracy relinquished; many provinces achieve actual or de facto independence during his reign. 1719–1723: Reorganization of the French East India Company revitalizes this relatively small-scale enterprise, operated from factories at their Pondicherry headquarters

Political History

(founded 1674), Chandranagar (1690), and Mahe´ (1721). French trade and political influence in India reach their height during the next two decades. July 8, 1720: Great earthquake in Delhi. 1720–1740: Conquests of peshwa (chief minister) Baji Rao i create a large, powerful Maratha state from central Deccan into northern India. He appropriates enormous power, effectively replacing Raja Shahu (reigns 1708–1749) as the real authority in the Maratha empire. Baji Rao i bureaucratizes the Maratha administration on the Mughal model, systematizing the collection of tribute and taxes. Closely administering only a central area, he leaves control of most of the Maratha Confederation to subordinate chiefs of the Holkars, Bhonsles, Gaekwars, Sindhias, and other clans. 1721–1722: English-Portuguese war against Angrian-clan pirates ended by a treaty of mutual assistance against the Marathas. 1722: Nawab of Awadh, Sa’adat Khan, Burhan-ul-Mulk (reigns 1722–1739), establishes virtual independence from Mughals. His successor, Mughal wazir Safdar Jang (1739– 1754), wields supreme power in the Mughal empire. 1724: Powerful Nizam ul-Mulk of Ahmadnagar, Mughal wazir and subahdar of Deccan, establishes independent kingdom of Hyderabad (reigns 1724–1748) in central and eastern Deccan. He treats with Mughals’ enemies, the Marathas, and encourages their invasion of northern India in 1731. Politically enfeebled, emperor Muhammad Shah is powerless to resist when the nizam declares himself governor of Agra (1737). September 24, 1726: English law enforcement is extended to India with the charter of British civil and criminal courts in Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras. 1729–1758: Rise of Travancore in Kerala during the reign of Raja Marthanada Varma. He controls pepper and other trade monopolies, encourages local Syrian Christian traders, and maintains a large army.


1730s: Malhar Rao Holkar, guerrilla fighter

against nizam and Rajputs, leads the rise of the Holkar clan in principality at Indore by consolidating jagirs in central India. An important subordinate Maratha group, Holkars repeatedly raid the perennially contested province of Malwa. 1730s–1740s: Maratha campaigns under Baji Rao i and his son, Balaji Baji Rao (reigns 1740–1761). They invade Karnataka (1726), undertake northern campaigns (early 1730s), and march on Mewar and Delhi (1736). Marathas’ defeat of Muhammad Shah at the Battle of Delhi in 1737 wins them Malwa province. They wage later campaigns against Konkan (1737), Bengal and Bihar (1741– 1743), Rajasthan (1744–1745), and, again, northern India (1747). 1733: An English blockade forces the governor of Surat to grant more favorable treatment. October 11–12, 1737: A cyclone and earthquake kill 300,000 people and destroy 20,000 boats at Calcutta. 1738–1739: Persian ruler Nadir Shah demonstrates the terminal weakness of the Mughal dynasty by sweeping through northern India with eighty thousand men. He takes Kandahar and in a three-month sweep (1739) takes Lahore, captures Muhammad Shah, and sacks Delhi, killing an estimated twenty thousand civilians. His plunder includes the Koh-i-Nur diamond, Shah Jahan’s sumptuous Peacock Throne (later to become the symbol of the Persian monarchy), and the provinces of Kabul and Kashmir. 1739: Marathas capture Bassein fort and Chaul in war with Portuguese (1737–1741), effectively ending the Portuguese era in India. Marathas grant the EIC free trade in Deccan. 1740: Bengal becomes independent of the Mughal empire. Nawabs rule independently until the installation of a British puppet (1757). May 1740: Nagpur ruler Raguji Bhonsle


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(reigns 1727–1755) leads fifty thousand Marathas into Karnataka; defeats and kills the nawab of Karnataka, Dost ’Ali, at Damalcherry Pass. Marathas again invade Karnataka (December 1740), seize Trichinopoly, and capture Chanda Sahib. Raguji then turns northward, capturing Orissa (1746), repeatedly invading and plundering Bengal and Bihar and inflicting huge losses before finally wresting this rich province from the combined forces of the emperor, peshwa, and nawab of Bengal (1751). 1741–1754: As governor-general of French India, Joseph Franc¸ois, Marquis Dupleix, introduces European arms trade to subcontinent. His military successes lead Indian princes to pay for French training for their own troops; sepoys (European-trained and led Indian infantrymen) become a staple of both European and Indian armies. 1743: Nizam ul-Mulk undertakes an expedition into Carnatic. A Mughal governorship since 1712 with its capital at Arcot, Carnatic has developed into a major southern state whose wealth and proximity to Madras make it an attractive target for conquest. 1744–1748: War of Austrian Succession spills over into the First Anglo-French Carnatic War despite Dupleix’s efforts to maintain neutrality in Indian territories. In major actions, French seize Madras (September 2– 10, 1746); defeat English ally nawab Anwarud-din’s forces at St. Thome´ (November 3, 1746); unsuccessfully besiege Fort St. George (November 1746–April 1748); and repulse a British attack on Pondicherry (August–October 1748). The Treaty of Aix-laChapelle restoring Madras to England (1748) is the first European treaty to recognize a European nation’s rights on the subcontinent. 1745: Civil war in Punjab after the Mughal governor dies. Mughal rule is thrown off in Jammu (1746), Rohilkhand (1748). 1747: Famine in Gujarat. 1748–1754: Second Anglo-French Carnatic War. The death of the nizam of Hyderabad

(May 1748) unleashes succession crises in both Hyderabad and Carnatic. Supporting opposing factions, the English and French become embroiled in local politics; the war launches the extraordinary Indian career of young English captain Robert Clive (1725– 1774). The incumbent nawab of Carnatic, Anwar-ud-din, is defeated and killed at the Battle of Ambur (1749) by allied forces of the French, Muzaffar Jang, and Chanda Sahib, who becomes nawab. Robert Clive captures Chanda Sahib’s capital at Arcot